Many childcare centers closed when COVID-19 began spreading, but half of them remained open. At least 17% of these centers took care of the children of essential healthcare workers.
But according to Vox, many states have not prioritized these workers alongside K-12 teachers to get vaccinated. For example, Kentucky has chosen to vaccinate only teachers during the 1b phase of vaccine distribution, dropping childcare workers into the much broader 1c category.
“Childcare teachers are educators too,” said Bradley Stevenson, the executive director of the Child Care Council of Kentucky. “We have been encouraging anyone who will listen to us to prioritize these educators with the K-12 teachers in this round of vaccine prioritization.”
Stevenson added the workers are disappointed and angry they have been pushed back even though they have been in classrooms since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended daycare workers should be categorized along with other educators in phase 1b. But even in states that have followed the CDC recommendations, vaccine rollouts for childcare workers has been chaotic, according to Vox.
In California, advocates fear childcare employees will be left behind, because they work long hours and might not have the language skills to navigate the complicated signup process to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Four states besides Kentucky — Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming – have placed childcare workers on a lower tier than teachers. Florida has not even prioritized either teachers or childcare workers, according to Vox.
Stevenson says, since childcare workers earn an average of $11 per hour nationwide, “this vaccine is their health insurance right at this moment.”
Experts say it is critical healthcare officials address this issue and provide easier access to vaccines for these workers who often do not have the time or transportation to get to mass vaccination centers.
“We want to make sure that our providers who are in person with these children every day are given priority access in a way that’s simple and straightforward to navigate,” said Alexa Frankenberg, executive director of Child Care Providers, a union in California.
“They should be at the front of the line, not pushed further and further back,” she said, according to Vox.
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