There was a sense of “jubilation” in the Surrey RCMP ranks Saturday evening after officers learned they can now receive COVID-19 immunization.
“People felt a big boost to the morale,” said Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko, who received her first shot Monday morning. “It means a lot to us, we are grateful.”
Last month, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the high number of COVID-19 cases in Surrey prompted health officials to consider giving vaccine priority to Surrey educators and first responders.
RCMP and fire services in both Surrey and White Rock learned over the weekend that first responders would now be eligible to receive a vaccine. Fraser Health started the immunization program Monday morning.
While Surrey RCMP had a contingency plan in place in the instance of increasing COVID-19 cases, Sturko said the news helped alleviate a sense of anxiety that was present among officers.
“We, of course, have (personal protective equipment) and all of our other safety precautions and measures in place. But still, there is a level of concern,” Sturko said. “But now having this extra layer of protection for not only our officers and employees, but for the community, gives us some peace of mind.”
Sturko said it’s not lost on officers that requesting vaccine priority was a “big ask.”
“We are extremely grateful and we will continue to serve the community and we appreciate that these have been made available to our members.”
Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas echoed Sturko in that staff are “very grateful” for the opportunity to receive vaccine.
“The work they do, the public safety services they provide, can only be delivered through a limited number of workers. So this does provide some relief,” Thomas said. “Once their immunities are built up, we will not be having staffing challenges as we go forward. So that’s a real positive perspective.”
Last week, Thomas said between Surrey RCMP and Surrey Fire Service, there were 18 confirmed cases that resulted in an additional 18 people being required to isolate for two weeks.
“That has continued,” Thomas said. “Even this morning we know of another confirmed case that’s requiring a crew to be isolated.”
Thomas said he wanted to acknowledge the provincial health officer, minister of health, the BC Government and “especially the wonderful immunization team at Fraser Health.”
White Rock Fire Department Chief Ed Wolfe said the immunization effort addresses one of the key concerns he has at the helm of the department.
“My number one concern with running an essential service is maintaining the operational capacity,” Wolfe said.
While Wolfe did not provide specifics on how many confirmed cases of COVID-19 the department has had, he said between White Rock RCMP and the fire department, there have been a number of cases.
He anticipates all members of his crew will be given an opportunity to receive their first shot of vaccine this week.
“It eliminates a little bit of risk as far as being able to maintain our current level of service. My big concern is what happens if COVID really took a hard hit on our department. We would be very limited coming from a small department.”