Firefighters who offer Medical First Response (MFR) services were promised priority COVID-19 vaccinations and fitting for N95 masks on February 16th, but firefighters say that those communications with the province have since stopped, and there appears to be no timeline or schedule for making this happen.
As a result, firefighters aren’t being used as frequently in emergency situations. Daniel Gaudet, who is the President of the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia says that many MFRs are still waiting to be fitted with N95 masks and many have still not been contacted for their vaccinations
"Without having the proper PPE many fire services are not being paged by EHS for calls that we used to respond to," said Gaudet. "Vaccinating MFRs, and all firefighters, should be a priority so that we can get back to responding to these calls and to help keep our communities safe."
Following motor vehicle accidents or house fires, firefighters are often the first ones on the scene. Firefighters also respond to vulnerable locations such as hospitals and long-term care homes should they need to respond to a smoke alarm or fire bell.
Cumberland South MLA Tory Rushton says that vaccinating MFR firefighters - a step which was already promised by the government - is a matter of public safety that could save lives.
“Even if that alarm turns out to be a false alarm, fire services still have an obligation to investigate and ensure that the residents and building are safe,” says Rushton, who was Chief at the Oxford Fire Department before being elected. “For the safety of both the firefighters and those they respond to - they need to have priority access to vaccines and to be supplied with proper masks.”
Fire departments in neighbouring New Brunswick and PEI are already receiving their priority vaccinations, while frontline police officers in Nova Scotia were moved back into priority for vaccines after presenting a similar case to the province. Rushton hopes that the same can be done for firefighters.
“The case to the government is simple: vaccinate all firefighters, MFR or not, so they can respond to calls for help safely without fear of catching or spreading this virus,” says Rushton.