COVID-19: Ottawa school board chair urges Ontario ministers to vaccinate teachers, staff

The chair of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board wrote to Ontario's education and health ministers last week pushing to get COVID-19 vaccines for education staff. EPA/MARKO DJOKOVIC

The chair of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) has sent a letter urging Ontario officials to prioritize teachers and other education staff in the second phase of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

In a letter sent to Health Minister Christine Elliott and Education Minister Stephen Lecce last week, OCDSB chair Lynn Scott highlighted the “tireless” work teachers and other staff have done to keep kids safe in the classroom so far during the coronavirus pandemic.

To keep kids safe and keep classes running, Scott wrote that making vaccinations available to education workers should be paramount.

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“We want our schools to be open, but we need to do everything we can to ensure our staff is safe, particularly those engaged in in-person work in schools, and especially supporting our most vulnerable high-needs students,” she wrote.

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“The vaccine represents a new level of protection and education workers need that protection.”

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Scott highlighted the arrival of new, more contagious coronavirus variants could threaten the ability of schools to stay open for in-class learning in the months ahead.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools'
COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools

“A formal public commitment to vaccinating education workers as part of Phase 2 is not just an important contributor to the strategy for containing COVID-19, but it is also an essential part of the provincial strategy to prioritize the opening of schools,” Scott wrote.

Currently, the second phase of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is scheduled to begin in April and education workers are listed among the front-line essentials workers in line to receive the jab.

Ontario solicitor general Sylvia Jones said Monday that local public health units will be “empowered” to design their own vaccine rollout strategies, subject to provincial approval.

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Ottawa is expected to finish administering first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to residents of the city’s 82 retirement homes by the end of the day on Tuesday, according to a memo sent to city council.

An in-depth update on the city’s coronavirus vaccine rollout is expected at the beginning of the city council meeting on Wednesday morning.

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