Farm workers, fruit plant employees among those to get B.C.'s initial supply of AstraZeneca vaccine | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Farm workers, fruit plant employees among those to get B.C.'s initial supply of AstraZeneca vaccine

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
March 15, 2021 - 2:12 PM

B.C.’s new supply of the Astra Zeneca vaccine will be used to get ahead of COVID-19 outbreaks in industries where it’s a challenge for workers to keep distance from one another and use personal protection equipment.

This includes fruit and meat processing plants, farms, nurseries and greenhouses, large industrial camps and areas where congregate accommodations are needed.

"Immunizing workers in these settings will not only protect workers, but it will also protect the communities around them, including many rural, remote and Indigenous communities,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement released today, March 15.

"By deploying AZ/SII in this way, B.C. will be able to manage outbreaks, prevent them before they occur and deploy vaccines strategically to reduce COVID-19 transmission in B.C.”

It’s welcome news to Glen Lucas, general manager of the BC Fruit Growers Association, though he said from his industry perspective individual businesses have done pretty well mitigating risk.

The only issues the Okanagan agricultural community had were when workers at Bylands dealt with an outbreak before quarantine measures were applied, and a case appeared at Crazy Cherry, which was connected to the “Kelowna outbreak.”

“Having said that, this is a vulnerable population because they're living and working tightly together,” Lucas said. “I’m happy to hear this is happening to further reduce risk to those workers. In a sense, agricultural workers are essential workers. Protecting the food supply is essential .”

Public health and WorkSafeBC have identified the highest risk categories of worksites through the COVID-19 Workplace Task Group established by the PHO in November 2020. These include: food processing plants, including poultry, fruit and fish processing;  agricultural operations with congregate worker accommodations, including farms, nurseries and greenhouses; large industrial camps under the PHO Industrial Camps order with congregate accommodations for workers; and other large congregate living settings for workers where isolation and quarantine is difficult and outbreaks are ongoing.

Full use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging and outbreaks and clusters have occurred or are ongoing, and workers must live or work in congregate settings. 

"Remember, the best vaccine for you is the one available now. The BC Immunization Committee is reviewing the latest data and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to determine additional workplaces that will be prioritized for immunization using the AZ/SII vaccine,” Dix and Dr. Henry said.

“The updated plan for additional shipments of AZ/SII vaccine will be released in the coming days."

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