Calls grow for Ontario daycare workers to receive COVID-19 vaccine to prevent closures

Click to play video: 'Ontario early childhood educators call for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility' Ontario early childhood educators call for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility
WATCH: As teachers in some parts of Ontario have been given the green light for COVID-19 vaccines, early childhood educators are calling on the province to make their positions eligible as well. As Katherine Ward reports, it could be June before they get a shot – Apr 13, 2021

For many families, having access to daycare has been a lifeline during this pandemic. While schools have gone back and forth between in-person and online learning, childcare centres have, for the most part, remained open.

Now calls are growing louder to bump up early childhood educators on the vaccine rollout, in order to make the position eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Shelley Secrett works as an ECE in Waterloo. She says keeping your distance from toddlers and infants is impossible. “We need to change their diapers. The three year-olds still need help when they are sitting on the toilet,” Secrett said.

“There is absolutely no way that we can stay a distance from them.”

Even the idea of daycare being paused can quickly send parents into panic mode.  Jacqueline Vong is the president and co-founder of Playology Intl., a company that specializes in licensing and brand management for toys and kid content. Vong is also a mom to two young children.

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“I feel like I am drowning in quicksand,” Vong said. “I have hit a COVID pandemic wall; just day to day we are hardly surviving.”

Read more: COVID-19: 12 cases at Buckhorn daycare, 7,100 vaccine doses arrive next week to Peterborough

Her four-year-old daughter will be learning from home for the foreseeable future, but her son will be at daycare. If childcare centres were to close, Vong said, it would add a lot of stress.

Teachers in some areas have been moved up on the priority list. Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy said they have called on the province to address the fact that ECE’s have not yet been included.

“Early childhood educators are educators, just like teachers. In fact, they’re still open,” Cressy said. “This to us looks like an oversight, and one that I hope the province will resolve and address quickly.”

While risk of transmission is higher in some other workplace settings like warehouses or food processing plants, infectious diseases physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti said ECEs should be considered carefully.

“Not only have they been looking after kids out of lockdown, but they have looking after essential workers’ kids in lockdown. That includes people who work in high-risk settings, as well as health-care workers,” said Chakrabarti.

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Read more: Daycares are opening across the country, but can they really operate safely?

But at this point, ECEs could have to wait until June before they can get a COVID-19 vaccination.

“Right now we’ll just wait for the supply and when the supply comes in we’ll get to them,“ Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference Tuesday.

Educators, however, said if the rollout changes and ECEs qualify earlier, it would make a huge difference in how they feel about doing their jobs.

“It would be so much more of a relief to be able to come to work feeling a little bit more secure about having a vaccination,” said Tracy Grisdale, principal of Central Montessori School in Toronto, “so they don’t have to worry about catching the virus, or taking it home to their families.”

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