Thanks to strong advocacy efforts by the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA), the Ontario provincial government is ensuring the province’s fire fighters will be in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“This is another example of good political action providing for our Ontario members, ” says 13th District Vice President Fred LeBlanc. “I am very proud of the work of OPFFA President Carmen Santoro and his team to get our members moved up into phase 1 for vaccines.”
“I appreciate Premier Doug Ford and our other provincial leaders for recognizing us as an essential service,” says Santoro. “We do not want to go in ahead of the most vulnerable – including our frontline healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities – but we should immediately follow that group so we can stay healthy and can continue to respond to all emergencies.”
Recently, in Mississauga, close to 20 percent of Local 1212 suppression fire fighters were off the job having to isolate after several tested positive. Stratford Local 534 and Cambridge Local 499 also experienced sudden staff reductions due to exposures and quarantine.
These outbreaks also put the health and safety of the community at risk. Without sufficient staffing, response capabilities become limited as some fire companies were temporarily closed in some cases.
Using talking points provided by the IAFF Canadian office, Santoro and his team explained to Premier Ford and other provincial government leaders that in order to ensure firefighter and public safety, Ontario’s firefighters needed priority access to the vaccine.
The provincial government agreed and many of Ontario’s fire fighters have already received the first dose.
Those who have not received the vaccine are advised to work with their fire chiefs to establish contact with the local public health unit to schedule appointments as soon as possible.
The province is currently on a stay-at-home order due to a surge in cases and hospitalizations. The order will remain effective through at least mid-February.