Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is once again reiterating calls to prioritize the vaccination of essential workers following the tragic death of a 13-year-old girl from that city last week.
Emily Viegas died on April 22, days after first exhibiting symptoms and five days after testing positive for COVID-19. She is one of the youngest Canadians to die after contracting the virus.
According to the Globe and Mail, Emily lived in an apartment in Brampton with her parents and her brother. Her brother and mother are also sick with the virus and her mother is in hospital.
Her father is an essential worker, explained Brown.
“What’s frustrating is, this was a family that was following public health’s advice — they were staying home, they weren’t socializing — but you had an essential worker working at a warehouse to support their family and his family got COVID-19,” said Brown.
When asked what the provincial government can do to ensure such a tragedy never happens again, Brown responded: “Vaccinate essential workers, vaccinate essential workers and vaccinate essential workers.”
While Emily’s father had received his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on April 12, it was already too late. Her mother was taken to hospital two days later.
Brown feels more needs to be done to prioritize essential workers and get them fully vaccinated sooner.
He said the system failed Emily on two fronts: first because essential workers like her father were not prioritized for vaccination and second because warehouses like the one her father worked in have been allowed to stay open.
“We’ve been screaming from the top of our lungs for the past five months from Brampton, ‘vaccinate essential workers.’ All the physicians are telling us the outbreaks are happening in these essential workplaces,” he said.
Brown added that Brampton has had 400 workplace outbreaks, which is contributing to community spread of the virus and the area is one of the worst hit hotspots in the province.
“No company is more important than public health,” he said. “There is an urgency to vaccinate essential workers. I don’t want to hear another story that rips your heart out like this.”
Brown said he’s frustrated because he keeps hearing “commitments” that essential workers are going to be vaccinated, but currently vaccines are available to those over 40 at pharmacies and over 50 at mass immunization clinics in Peel region.
“But the average age of an essential worker in Brampton is 36, so they’re still not on the list,” he said.
Ongoing supply limits have exacerbated the problem. Brampton is set to get a supply increase of 30 per cent and Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province is also considering allocating 50 per cent of total vaccine supply to hotspots.
The province is also rolling out mobile and pop-up clinics in Peel and while some have already been set up, Brown says it’s a drop in the ocean.
“We have 1.5 million people here in Peel Region. It’s going to take more than a few pop-up clinics,” he said.