Calls for teachers to get COVID-19 vaccine 'as soon as possible'
KITCHENER -- There are growing calls for teachers and other education workers to get their COVID-19 vaccines soon.
They're included in Phase Two of vaccine rollout, but it's still unclear when they'll be able to get their shots.
The public and Catholic school boards in Waterloo Region both discussed vaccinations at trustee meetings on Monday, including saying they want to ensure those at higher risk get to the front of the line.
"As we know many of these students in special education classes are unable to wear masks, many of them are medically fragile, and with the variants this is quite a concern," said Jayne Herring, a trustee in with the public school board.
Some said they want to see teachers given higher priority.
"The main desire is just wanting to be vaccinated as soon as possible," said Jeff Pelich, vice president of EFTO Waterloo Region. "A lot of the members that I'm speaking to, a lot of the education workers, are finding more increasingly students in their classroom are going unmasked for whatever reason, or they're working with vulnerable students who it's just impossible to put the actual mask (on)."
Some have heard education workers could start getting their shots in April, but don't have any other details.
"We haven't heard anything, we haven't hear a single thing, which is really frustrating to a lot of our members," Pelich said.
Brenda Coleman, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto and assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said it's vital to get teachers vaccinated.
"They are essential workers," she said.
Coleman said schools are touted as safe spaces, but there are still risks.
"It might not be a source of high transmission because they're doing a really good job of wearing their masks and distancing, but the potential is there and it seems that these variants are spreading among the children more than the original strain of COVID did, so I think it's important we get everyone protected as soon as possible," Coleman said.
The head of Toronto's public school board has suggested getting education workers vaccinated over the upcoming April break.
Pelich said there are other benefits to that plan.
"We know that the guard of many of the children is going to be let down during that week, so why don't we spend that week vaccinating educators so that when they return they're protected," he said.
The idea would be largely dependent on vaccine supply.
Waterloo Region hasn't opened pre-registration up to teachers yet. Public health officials didn't indicate when they may be able to get their names on a list.
Teachers in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph can pre-register for vaccines, but haven't started booking appointments. It's expected they'll receive their vaccinations in early May.
In Niagara Region, however, around 1,500 educators who support students with special needs have received their vaccine.