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OPSEU/SEFPO: province must crack down on COVID-19 vaccine queue jumpers

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Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the province must do more to crack down on COVID-19 vaccine queue jumpers amid reports of a hospital manager who pushed their own family member to the front of the line.

“The success of Ontario’s vaccine rollout depends on fairness and trust,” said Thomas. “The province has prioritized high-risk populations in order to save lives. Every time an individual outside this targeted group jumps the queue to get vaccinated, they’re putting someone else’s life in jeopardy.

“That’s not fair, and the province must do more to crack down on rule breakers if they’re serious about saving lives,” said Thomas.

Last week, priority front line staff at Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville were given access to limited doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The union is raising the alarm that despite this limited availability, a member of the hospital’s management team ignored provincial orders by bringing their family member on-site to get vaccinated, ahead of those on the priority list.

This disturbing revelation comes on the heels of reports that Canada’s latest shipment of the Pfizer vaccine will be cut in half as a result of a temporary delay in production. OPSEU First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says this is especially troubling in light of recent news that several hospital staff in other parts of Ontario who have already been vaccinated are not in the high-risk category, including public relations executives and staff on leave.

“We’re already seeing corruption and queue jumping and we’ve only just begun,” said Almeida. “We’re still in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout, which should see only the highest priority individuals getting jabbed, but instead we’re seeing hospital managers abuse their power.

“This does not bode well for the public or staff’s trust in the vaccine rollout,” said Almeida. “And the government should intervene immediately and put a stop to this.”

“We keep hearing that front line health care workers are heroes,” said Thomas. “Well, it’s time for hospital management to show their appreciation through actions, not just hollow words. These front-line heroes deserve access to the vaccine before management’s personal guest list.”

Thomas added that there is a growing frustration among health care workers about the barriers to getting vaccinated. Some hospitals are forcing frontline workers to use their personal banked credits to get the vaccine.

“It’s the province’s job to make sure that vaccine prioritization is respected and that no barriers exist,” said Thomas. “If the people in charge of the rollout, including hospital managers, can’t be trusted to follow the rules, then they’ll need to be replaced. The province must send a clear message that rule breakers will be booted.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931