Honourable Tyler Shandro
Minister of Health Officer of the Minister
Health 423 Legislature Building 10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6
Honourable Doug Schweitzer
Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation
Office of the Minister
Jobs, Economy and Innovation
425 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6
Dear Ministers Shandro and Schweitzer:
On behalf of Alberta’s business community, we want to thank you, and your government, for your leadership and share our appreciation for the challenging decisions you need to make in this difficult and ever-changing pandemic environment. We also thank you for your previous engagement with BCA previously on COVID-19 support, recovery efforts, and most recently, vaccine rollout, which is why we write you specifically.
We write this letter to offer our support and share some ideas regarding vaccine rollout, which have been put forward by several of BCA’s Sector Tables including members of the Agriculture & Forestry Table and Transportation and Logistics Table.
Only by pulling together as Albertans and immunizing a significant portion of our population will we be able to return to all the activities we so enjoy, fully support the local businesses that we love, and repair our economy.
We wholeheartedly agree with the prioritization of health care workers and vulnerable populations in the early vaccination phases. Alberta’s healthcare and emergency services workers are the heroes of the pandemic, and we thank them. We also owe so much gratitude to the other essential workers who have kept safely delivering essential services throughout the pandemic. As you solidify your plans for subsequent phases of the vaccine rollout, we would ask you to give some consideration to an additional category of workers:
Critical and scarce workers: these are Albertans in both the public and private sector in critical roles for the continuity and security of core services. These are roles where substitute workers are scarce, and the disruption of which would interfere with critical services the public depends on.
These are workers fields such as power, utilities, food supply, education, emergency and protective services, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, fuel, and energy. It is our recommendation that critical and scarce workers be considered for a level of prioritization in coming phases of vaccine rollout. For example, as expanded group, “Group E,” as part of Phase II. This meets the emergency management principle of prioritizing life safety, followed by critical infrastructure, followed by the broader economy. One method would be to allow both public and business employers to nominate specific critical and essential roles/workers based on certain criteria.
During past pandemic waves, several components or our critical infrastructure and services were stretched. Some nearly to breaking. We have heard directly from organizations concerned that would not be able to keep critical infrastructure running if only a few cases were found among critical workers, particularly in light of increasing travel restrictions.
At times, aspects of our food security system, specifically livestock, have come very close to total collapse. Your government’s actions helped avert this collapse. However, we believe it is prudent to attempt to head these issues off at the pass if we can, rather than dealing with crises as they emerge.
We are sensitive to the reality that any prioritization is challenging. All Albertans are deserving of the vaccine, and some of us will have to wait a bit longer. We wish to be clear that we are not asking that any groups be put in front of frontline workers or vulnerable populations. Those must come first. We propose simply that when vaccinations are more widely available that the province employ strategic prioritization.
To help facilitate this and subsequent prioritization, we also encourage you to begin, as soon as is practical, establishing a “Standby List” of Albertans willing to receive the vaccine when it is available, along with basic demographic information. In this way, there would be greater ability to fill any open vaccination spots with the “next highest priority” person and to better forecast demand.
For instance, Albertans living on a low income have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic economically and frequently have other factors that may make them more vulnerable from a health perspective. We encourage allowing these individuals preferred access to available vaccination spots, to speed both the heath and economic recoveries. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do our job from behind a desk at home or in an office, can see clearly to prioritizing others first.
The business community is able and ready to assist the Government of Alberta in its implementation program. Given the depth of experience in logistics amongst the business community, we can assist with planning, distribution, and deployment. Many of our members have robust health and safety programs and expertise, facilities and staff that they would be keen to bring to bear on vaccination to ensure that we get Albertans vaccinated as soon as possible. They stand ready to assist should a means to do so be there.
Thank you again for your leadership in these times, and we recommit to offering the resources of the business community to assist in all ways with the pandemic response, vaccine rollout, and provincial recovery.
Hal Kvisle, Board Chair
Business Council of Alberta
Adam Legge, President
Business Council of Alberta