Some say teacher vaccinations not coming soon enough

The lessons of disappointment are being learned within school communities across the region, as education workers are denied the COVID-19 vaccine for at least another five weeks.

The provincial government said Tuesday that teachers and other essential workers won’t be eligible for the shot until the middle of May - when the school year is nearing its end.

It’s not the news that some wanted to hear, including London parent Holly Lachateloe. “Yes they should be vaccinated. It would be helpful. ‘Cause then they’d be more safe and we wouldn’t have to worry, probably.”

Lachateloe was with her mother and youngest son at Gibbons Park in London, while they waited for an older child to finish school.

Her mother, Peta Ward, said she would also feel more comfortable if her grandchildren’s teachers were vaccinated.

“Oh yes, they should be done, ‘cause they’re around the kids, you know. We’ve had so many cases in the schools already.”

London parent Holly Lachateloe, her son Dalton, her mother Peta Ward at Gibbons Park in London Ont. on April 6, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

London parent Greg Bal could also be found out for a walk at Gibbons Park. The father of two school aged children said he believes teachers who want the shot should be able to get it right away. “I would understand if they chose not to, but if they did I would feel safer for my kids if they’ve been vaccinated.”

The provincial government said the first group of essential workers who will receive a vaccine in the second phase of the vaccine rollout includes elementary and secondary school staff, along with child care workers. Despite pressure to bump teachers up the priority list, the revised timeline is only weeks earlier than originally planned.

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Thames Valley President Craig Smith said it’s not soon enough.

“Over six million people by my calculation that are directly affected by what goes on in our schools. That to me is a good case for vaccinating both teachers and other education workers. That being said, it’s not a question of teachers only and not others. It’s a question of all essential workers should be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Some jurisdictions around the province have already begun pre-registering teachers for vaccines.

There have also been calls to vaccinate teachers during the Spring break.

Middlesex London medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said Tuesday in a virtual news conference there are no plans to move any faster than what the province mandates.

“We should all be vaccinated sooner rather than later. At this point we are not planning to discontinue vaccinating in the groups that are at the highest risk of death, which is the elderly population and anyone over aged 60. We’re not planning to stop there and pivot to vaccinating younger groups.”

In the meantime, ETFO has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday.

Union officials will be joined by medical experts and parents groups to share their concerns about school safety, and to call for the immediate vaccination of education workers.