Dr. Bonnie Henry is joined by Dr. Penny Ballem as they arrive to talk about phase 2 in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Dr. Bonnie Henry is joined by Dr. Penny Ballem as they arrive to talk about phase 2 in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Surrey teachers to receive COVID-19 vaccine this week

Surrey is, ‘by far,’ the highest risk area for COVID-19: Dr. Bonnie Henry

Surrey Schools superintendent Jordan Tinney says teachers in the district are to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Tinney tweeted on Tuesday that vaccinations would start March 24, with dozens of schools included in the district’s priority areas.

He said the hope is all school-based staff would have their first dose by April 1.

“With almost 9,000 school-based staff in our district, we made a decision to begin offering appointments to schools in zones that have the highest rates of community transmission first,” he said in an email issued to district staff.

Tinney said priority will be all schools in the Panorama-Sullivan, City Centre and Newton-Fleetwood areas.

He added only school-based staff are currently eligible for the vaccine.

Tinney made the announcement the day after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talked about the virus risk in Surrey.

Henry said the number of cases in Surrey has prompted health officials to consider giving vaccine priority to Surrey educators over other teachers in the province.

Surrey is, “by far,” the highest risk area in the province, Henry said.

“We don’t have enough vaccine to do everyone in the school system right now, so we will be prioritizing where the risk is greatest,” Henry said.

Last week, officials announced frontline workers, including police, firefighters, child-care, grocery store, postal and K-12 education staff would be getting the vaccine in April.

RELATED: Younger people with COVID now requiring longer hospital, ICU stays: Dr. Henry

Henry said teachers are among the focus of immunization due to the disruption caused to society when cohorts of students are requested to isolate. She said school COVID-19 safety plans are effective, and that COVID-19 cases related to the school setting is reflective of the community.

“It’s been particularly a concern in the Surrey school district where we see exposures in schools and it’s very disruptive,” she said.

Henry noted that while the province was looking at prioritizing Surrey teachers, “all of the educators in the school system are a priority group because of the role they play in the education system.”

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said it’s “such a relief” to learn educators and school staff in the Surrey school district “will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the coming days.”

“As we know, Surrey has been a hot spot for COVID-19 transmission in both community and school settings.”

Henry noted an increase of the B117 (U.K.) variant of the virus, which is more transmissible.

Workplaces and indoor gatherings continue to be the leading venue where the virus is spread.

She also said there’s been a “concerning” increase in the number of younger people ending up in hospital or intensive care due to COVID-19.

“What we’re seeing is that people in our community, younger age groups, requiring hospitalization and needing to be hospitalized for longer periods of time,” Henry said.

So far, about 10.5 per cent of B.C.’s adult population has been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus – a percentage far below what’s needed for herd immunity and that is heavily skewed towards long-term care home residents, seniors and people in isolated communities.

Henry noted that while the risk is still much higher for seniors and other older people, the younger people who are ending up in hospital are requiring more time in the ICU.

“We have seen several young people in their 30s and 40s who’ve unfortunately, tragically, been severely affected by COVID.”

Meanwhile, RCMP officials have described their inclusion in Monday’s vaccine-priority announcement as “great news… for all our officers and employees who have been working in these unforeseen circumstances across the province, on and off the frontlines, throughout the pandemic.”

“We don’t yet have the specifics as to how the vaccine will be rolled out, to whom and when,” said Eric Stubbs, assistant commissioner of criminal operations for the B.C. RCMP, in an emailed statement.

“We look for learning more in the upcoming days, and once we have a greater understanding, we will ensure that our employees are notified first.”

White Rock Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls – noting his officers have not stopped responding during the pandemic – said having frontline officers protected with a vaccine “will also protect the community and the officer’s families from transmission.”

“The officers don’t always have a choice to maintain physical distancing and we interact with many high risk populations and are frequently present in the hospital emergency room for prolonged periods of time,” Pauls told Peace Arch News by email.

“It will be good news once everyone in the community has access to the vaccine.”

– with files from Tracy Holmes

CoronavirusSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

Chrystina Barnard, owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply, has made it her mission to visit as many patios in Penticton as a way to promote restaurants. Here she is enjoying an eggs benny with her best fur friend at Loki’s Garage in Penticton. (Facebook)
Penticton foodie commits to 19-day patio crawl to promote local restaurants

The small business owner wanted to help out eateries hurt by the new restrictions

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Penticton fire truck
Residents evacuated after apartment fire in Penticton

The fire started in an apartment on Government Street Saturday night

Lori Jantz snapped this picture of a fight between a bald eagle and an osprey above Osoyoos Lake on Friday. (Lori Jantz photo)
Battle in the sky erupts above South Okanagan lake

Bald eagle and osprey fight mid-air in Osoyoos

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read