Canadian flight attendants working at Air Canada, WestJet and seven other Canadian airlines want to be amongst the first groups of people to receive a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus once they have received emergency use approval. Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have all published preliminary Phase III trial results that demonstrate they are safe and effective with efficacy rates of up to 90 per cent or more.
While many governments are still grappling with the exact order in which their citizens should be inoculated, most countries will seek to vaccinate the elderly and others with high-risk medical conditions who are at most risk of suffering a severe illness from COVID-19 before vaccinating the wider population.
“While we want to be clear that at-risk populations and health care workers should receive absolute priority, we also believe flight attendants clearly meet the government’s stated criteria for early immunization,” wrote Wesley Lesosky, President of the Airline Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) last week.
The Canadian government is also considering giving priority access to vaccines for workers who provide “essential services for the functioning of society”. The list of essential workers is still to be drawn up but eligible workers could include those who can’t work from home and who are more at risk of being infected with the novel Coronavirus.
Examples given by the Canadian government include police officers, firefighters and supermarket workers.
“Flight attendants, of course, do not have the ability to work virtually, nor do they have the ability to observe any remote kind of physical distancing in their workplace,” Lesosky wrote in the letter to Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.
“Furthermore, due to the nature of their work, they are put into close contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people on a daily basis, and regularly must travel interprovincially and internationally in the performance of their duties.”
“We think it is important for the government to acknowledge the fact that flight attendants were some of the first in Canada to encounter and become infected with COVID-19 in the workplace,” the letter continued.
If Canada’s flight attendants do get early access to a vaccine, they at least won’t be the first. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Etihad Airways had started to vaccinate its cabin crew using a Chinese vaccine developed by Sinopharm in partnership Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company Group 42.
The vaccine received emergency use approval back in September for use on frontline workers, including flight attendants. The vaccine, which is still undergoing Phase III trials, has already been given to at least 31,000 people in Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan, as well as the United Arab Emirates.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.