OTTAWA -- Green Party Leader Annamie Paul repeated her longstanding call that vaccines be made available to every adult living in a community with a high concentration of low-income essential workers and with a high concentration of COVID-19 infection.
“In our roundtable today, we heard from leading doctors, infectious disease specialists and health experts about the urgent need to vaccinate essential workers and all adults in the neighbourhoods in which they live,” said Ms. Paul. “Low-income essential workers carry out the jobs that have kept our country going, but which have put them at substantially higher risk of infection throughout the pandemic. These workers do not have the option to work from home, and their jobs often do not include sick pay. Their risk of infection, and of contributing to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, is significantly higher.
“This wave of COVID-19 is different. The new COVID-19 variants are causing more serious illness to younger people; are 2.7 times more prevalent in areas where essential workers live; and are increasing at the fastest rate amongst low-income essential workers. We also know that the new variants lead to a 60 per cent increased risk of hospitalization, a 100 per cent increased risk of intensive care admission, and a 60 per cent increased risk of death. The time is now to follow scientific and public health advice and to reorient our vaccination strategy towards essential workers, low-income, and racialized communities.”
Ms. Paul also called on the Prime Minister, Minister of Health Hajdu and all federal party leaders to contact their provincial counterparts to urge them to immediately operationalize the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guideline for all “[a]dults in racialized and marginalized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19” to be immunized in the same phase as adults aged 60+.
“Given the elevated risk of infection, serious illness and death these adults face, I cannot understand why they have not been prioritized in this phase of the vaccine rollout, and why the NACI guideline continues to be ignored. I expect the Prime Minister and Minister of Health to be vigorously advocating for the provinces to follow the NACI guideline, given that the guideline’s objective is to ‘minimize serious illness and deaths.’
“In some parts of Canada, we are repeating the same mistakes that were made in the second wave of the pandemic when we waited too long to start vaccinating those who needed it the most. In that wave, lives were lost in long-term care (LTC) because homes weren't initially prioritized for vaccination. In some provinces, it took fierce advocacy before vaccines were redirected to LTC residents - too late for many. Now, in this third wave, it is essential workers and low-income racialized communities that are failing to be correctly prioritised. In Ontario, the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table reports that ‘vaccination is not reaching the highest risk communities, delaying its impact as an effective strategy.’
“As long as we are not vaccinating essential workers and the neighbourhoods in which they live, our vaccine strategy will remain profoundly inequitable, and bad public health policy. Essential workers, low-income, and racialized communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic, and no level of government has the right to stand on the sidelines while lives are needlessly put at risk.
"Given that Canada still lacks an intergovernmental task force to ensure a coordinated national vaccination strategy, it now falls to every federal leader, and every MP to fulfil their duty to their constituents by pushing for vaccines to be directed towards essential workers, and their communities. We know that this is where our limited vaccine supply will do the most good in protecting the most Canadians in this third wave.”
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