EDMONTON -- Alberta EMS members are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available but some of their frontline colleagues are not.

Firefighters weren't included in the expanded list of health-care workers who will be offered the vaccine, which grew to include EMS and paramedics on Monday. 

“I was very happy with the announcement that our brothers and sisters in EMS were involved in the vaccine program,” Greg Holubowich, president of the Edmonton Fire Fighters’ Union, said. 

“But, I was absolutely surprised that firefighters were not included.”

Firefighters are exposed to patients with COVID-19 every day and calls for fire service are increasing as more people are affected by the disease in the province, he said. 

“Firefighters play an important role in the chain of survival in helping with pre-hospital care. A lot of the time we are the first on the scene, and we are exposed to patients with COVID that are COVID positive."

Holubowich added, “If we become infected and unfortunately if it was to spread throughout our ranks our ability to deliver frontline medical service to the citizens of Edmonton [would be compromised].” 

The firefighter is hopeful that in due time those involved in the decision-making process will acknowledge firefighters should be included in the rollout program. 

He said early consideration for the vaccine would help minimize fear and anxiety amongst the ranks. 

“We’re well into the pandemic. Our level of confidence in our personal protective equipment is high,” Holubowich said. 

“But, [it would improve] the comfort level of going home after a shift and not contaminating your family. As well as delivering that good frontline service to the public.”