Regina police Chief Evan Bray says he's relieved front-line officers and other first responders are being offered priority COVID-19 vaccinations, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise.
The provincial government announced on Monday that mobile vaccination units will be dispatched to central workplace areas to administer vaccines to first responders who weren't listed in Phase 1, such as police officers and firefighters.
However, more than 140 officers were vaccinated over the weekend — before the mobile units were dispatched for first responders — during low wait times at the drive-thru clinic in Regina, according to police.
Bray said he received "non-stop" messages and emails from officers, along with their spouses, about how happy they were to get vaccinated.
"You have no idea. It was just such a relief," he said.
Some of the officers were even greeted with cheers from medical staff when they arrived at the drive-thru clinic, according to Bray.
"It was a pretty positive night, for sure."
LISTEN | Regina police Chief Evan Bray on CBC Saskatchewan's The Morning Edition
The announcement came after Bray and other law enforcement officials issued repeated calls for prioritized vaccines for front-line police officers and other first responders who weren't included in Phase 1.
Bray said officers are often put in positions that leave them vulnerable to the virus. They respond to calls involving people who have tested positive and aren't isolating, along with reports of people violating a public health order.
But what's been equally dangerous, Bray said, is responding to calls when it's not known if someone has tested positive — even though officers always go into a situation expecting someone could be infected.
Not long ago, Bray said, officers responded to an assault call. There was no indication the person was infected as they didn't have symptoms. However, the victim ended up testing positive the next day.
As a result, the officers who responded to the call had to go into isolation.
Bray said he doesn't want to be too critical of the vaccine rollout thus far because there's no blueprint for this type of mass vaccination, but with rising COVID-19 cases he believes prioritizing front-line workers is a key part of the plan.
"If we can find a way to keep them safe, it will help keep our community safe," he said.
Another 60 front-line officers will receive a dose once supply allows, according to police.
Mobile vaccination units are currently targeted toward people in communal settings, such as group homes and people who live or work at shelters. But the province anticipates focusing on first responders afterward, "within two weeks upon the completion of congregate living setting vaccinations."