Temiskaming Shores daycare workers ecstatic to be included in vaccine rollout
NORTH BAY -- Daycare workers in Temiskaming Shores are celebrating the news that they will be getting their first dose of the vaccine to fight against COVID-19 very soon.
Tracey Whalen, an early child educator of 15 years, says it was frustrating to see other groups get added to the vaccine rollout.
That is until she learned the local health unit there announced it is starting the process for day care workers in May.
"It just seemed like the story kept changing," Whalen told CTV News.
"When the vaccines first came out, they said we would be in phase two with the teachers and we just kept getting pushed down."
Whalen felt child day care staff were being forgotten when she saw other groups being added to the line up for the coveted COVID-19 vaccine.
She then began advocating for day care staff members in a bid to secure vaccines for her co-workers and other early childhood educators in her health unit district.
Whalen says despite staff taking proper precautions, it is very hard to properly physical distance when working with children. Whalen sees up to seven children each day. She strictly works only with toddlers.
"Kids are too young to be masked and don't understand the social distancing. We're taking care of these children. We're wiping tears and wiping noses," she said.
Whalen's discontent with the vaccine rollout suddenly changed when she found out the Timiskaming Health Unit announced it is starting the booking process for essential workers who cannot work from home. This includes all day care staff.
"We're going to be starting that in May. So we've just reached out to the eligible work categories just to get an idea with numbers and names," said Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Glenn Corneil. "Nothing is booked yet. We are hoping to have some vaccines available."
When Whalen found out, she felt a sense of relief.
"It just feels like we're getting closer to the end, so it's just a bit of a relief," she said. "There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
In a statement to CTV News, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli says all childhood workers who are 40 years of age or older are eligible to be vaccinated.
"Our priority is keeping our child care centers open and most especially safe, and we are committed to getting every single child care worker in Ontario vaccinated as soon as supply becomes available," said Fedeli.
"Minister (Stephen) Lecce has listened to our child care partners and has continued to advocate for the accelerated delivery of vaccines to all child care and education workers."
The health unit says demand for a vaccine remains incredibly high and that it is doing all it can with the vaccine supply it has.
"There's a lot of groups and a lot of people who are very keen to get vaccinated for very good reasons," said Corneil. "We can only vaccinate based on the vaccines we get."
Whalen calls it a victory for day care staff who, every day, put themselves at risk looking after little bundles of joy.
"I also hope in future that the government doesn't forget about us and the role that us child care workers do play," she concluded.