City discusses who is next in line for COVID-19 vaccine

By Jackson Spring

Edmonton city council's emergency advisory committee met on Jan. 7 to discuss the city's pandemic plan until COVID-19 vaccines become widely available, which is expected to be sometime this fall according to the provincial government's immunization program.

Until then, vaccines will continue to be administered to specific groups identified by the province as high risk, with input from municipal governments.

Health-care workers and residents of continuing care facilities in Edmonton have already received approximately 30,000 doses of the vaccine as of Jan. 7, said interim city manager Adam Laughlin. The committee broadly agreed that police officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical technicians should be next in line.

"The city will continue to advocate for priority vaccination timing for our frontline first responders," said Laughlin.

Mayor Don Iveson and interim city manager Adam Laughlin spoke to media on Jan. 7 following the committee meeting.

Laughlin mentioned the particular danger the virus poses to firefighters, who are often exposed to smoke, and who are at greater risk of suffering serious health effects from the respiratory symptoms of the virus.

The provincial government will decide who will receive the vaccine next ahead of Phase 2, which is scheduled for April.

The committee also discussed the potential for festivals like the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Heritage Festival to take place this summer, with some restrictions. Rob Smyth, deputy manager of citizen services, said he has been speaking with various festival groups and determined that they may be safe to hold with "smaller numbers, likely, and a requirement to extend the duration of the festivals."

Smyth said the city is not ready to make a final decision about whether festivals will be able to go ahead.