COVID-19 vaccines: Surrey and White Rock first responders prioritized for a dose

RCMP officers, civilian staff in detachments and firefighters began getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine Monday morning.

That’s according to an internal RCMP memo from Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards.

“I am pleased to advise you that we have received approval from the province and Fraser Health for all Surrey detachment staff (all categories of members and municipal employees) to receive vaccines on a priority basis,” wrote Edwards.

“These vaccinations are in recognition of the fact that Surrey is currently a hot spot for COVID transmission, and of your vital role as first responders and support staff,” read the memo.

The doses will be given at temporary vaccination sites in Surrey Monday and Tuesday.

The memo says they are voluntary and no compensation is being given for appointments made during off-duty hours.

“This is a great morale boost. Even for myself, I think knowing that, you know, the chance of me inadvertently spreading the virus as a result of the work that I do, you know, to people in my family and the community that is, is reduced a lot,” said Sgt. Elenore Sturko just minutes after receiving her first shot.

Sturko says she’s grateful that she and her colleagues were made a priority, as many of them had direct exposure to virus while on duty.

She recently had to search a person who had a confirmed case of COVID-19.

“I had a great deal of PPE on; I actually had a very effective respirator that I was able to wear,” she said.

“But even with all that protection, you know, then the days following the search that I had done on that individual, any little tickle in your throat, it's always in the back of your mind, 'did I contract COVID-19,'” Sturko said.

About 1,200 RCMP staff in Surrey and White Rock, and hundreds more firefighters at local halls will be getting inoculated.

This comes after months of fierce advocacy from both the Surrey's fire chief and Surrey RCMP’s assistant commissioner.

However, first responders in other hard hit communities in the Lower Mainland like Vancouver and Squamish have not been given a priority status yet.

“We hope that you're right behind us. We're very grateful for the support of both the community, our fellow first responders, the province and of course Fraser Health,” said Sturko.