School staff in Surrey will be receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine early after health officials described the city as “one of the highest-risk areas” in the province.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the situation on Monday afternoon. Teachers and school staff are part of the 300,000 frontline workers that have been identified as priority groups in BC and as such, will be able to receive the AstraZeneca or COVISHIELD vaccination in the coming weeks.

At this point in time, however, BC expects to receive 272,000 doses, meaning that health officials will still need to prioritize where they go.

“We will be strategically targeting communities where transmission is the highest,” Henry said. “Surrey, by far, has been for some time, one of the highest-risk areas.”

In addition to immunizing people in the education system, Henry said they’ll also look at targeting businesses and different communities within Surrey.

School District Superintendent Jordan Tinney confirmed the news after sharing on social media that vaccination memos were being sent out to all Surrey Schools staff.

“We have been given approval to work with Fraser Health to provide vaccinations to our K-12 school-based staff,” Tinney wrote. “We are in the process of working with Health to prioritize and to determine how to schedule and communicate this process which will begin to unfold in the coming days.”

Henry also addressed why school staff were placed on the list of priority frontline workers, despite messaging from health officials that transmission in schools continues to remain low.

“We are not seeing transmission in greater numbers, we know that the safety plans in schools are working,” she stressed. “But the school setting is reflective of the community.”

“We do know when we have higher [transmission] rates in the community, there are exposures that happen in schools. And we’ve been seeing that, and it’s been particularly a concern in the Surrey school district.”

Calling transmission events disruptive, Henry compared the situation of school staff to that of first responders such as police, firefighters, and medical workers. She said that while they’re not necessarily at high risk, they have an “important function in society that can be disrupted, and disrupted quite severely.”


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