Teachers and transit bus drivers hope they will finally make the vaccine list.

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Teachers and transit bus drivers hope they will finally make the vaccine list.

On Wednesday, the Manitoba vaccine task force is expected to expand eligibility.

James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers Society, said he hopes the province's 16,600 teachers, as well as all other school employees, get are allowed to sign up to get a vaccine after many were shut out on Monday when the province suddenly reduced the eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to 40 and older.

"A lot of members are considerably confused at the moment," said Bedford.

"The announcement was made late morning. Teachers have made a commitment to their students during the day and more likely it (looking for a vaccine) had to wait until the end of the day."

Bedford said teachers - who teach every day in classrooms with students who could be carrying the virus - accepted earlier in the pandemic that there were others at greater risk, including senior citizens, but they don't understand now why they could not have been prioritized on Monday.

"If the goal of vaccination is to get herd immunity, it would make good sense to get into these arms and say we're setting up a chance to get vaccinated," said Bedford.

"If it is important to protect teachers, we should have vaccination clinics in schools."

James Van Gerwen, vice-president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said every day unvaccinated bus drivers across the city get into vehicles hundreds of square feet smaller than an average house.

"You can stick 60 people inside a bus which is probably about 150 square feet," Van Gerwen said. "If you compare that to a 1,500 square foot house, it would be like having about 600 people inside.

"I cannot stress enough: we don't have the protection other businesses have. Buses are exempt from health orders for gathering so we can't restrict people coming on buses."

Van Gerwen said he knows of one bus driver who may have contracted COVID-19 while working on the Easter weekend.

"Now his wife and child have COVID, too," he said.

"And 85 per cent of our runs come from one central garage, Fort Rouge. If we get an outbreak there it will shut the entire system down, thousands of people won't be able to get to work.

"You can't just get people off the street to be a bus driver."


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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