IDEAS: Those who work with children should be priority for vaccination

Students at a Miami Valley Child Development Centers preschool work on a craft activity with their teacher. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
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Students at a Miami Valley Child Development Centers preschool work on a craft activity with their teacher. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

On Jan. 25, Governor DeWine announced that Ohio school employees for Ohio K-12 schools would begin receiving the COVID vaccine on February 1. We were told not every school would have access to the vaccines on February 1st, but districts would be notified of their designated times by the end of that week.

Governor DeWine said his decision was part of the state’s commitment to prioritize the vaccination of Ohio’s most vulnerable populations and to ensure that that our children in grades K-12 schools were able to safely get back to school by March 1.

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This program for k-12 teachers has been successful and given access to the vaccine for many educators and school employees who do serve our most vulnerable children. But it has failed to acknowledge countless others who are educators and who have continued to work with the children throughout this pandemic. These are the daycare, afterschool, and family resource providers who serve the most vulnerable children and their families each day.

Through the pandemic, our family resource coordinators have delivered Chromebooks and, made home wellness visits to ensure that unengaged children were not suffering abuse or neglect. They have delivered meals and made referrals to social service agencies addressing rental and utility assistance for the families. Once school begins, they should be returning to the schools to support the children’s needs.

Yet, they will not have received the vaccine.

Daycare teachers and support personnel kept centers open so kids had a safe and supportive environment while their parents continued to work.

Yet, they will not have received the vaccine.

The vast majority of childcare, afterschool and family resource workers are minorities and women of color, compared to a mere 4% of K-12 teachers (Fordham Institute, 2018).

We also know that on nearly every COVID-19 impact measurement, the pandemic has been devastating for minorities and households in underserved communities.

As an African-American minister and community leader, I have been asked to support initiatives to get more minority engagement in the COVID vaccination programs.

As a result of the policy not to include these key education professionals in this group – as many other states have done - these professionals have a choice to either put themselves at risk or deliver their services remotely.

It’s time for some consideration in our state’s vaccine policy to provide access to the remaining education workforce that has remained committed to serving our most vulnerable children and their families throughout this pandemic.

Vanessa Ward is President of the Omega Community Development Corporation