'Teachers should be in that line': Why some are pushing for quicker COVID-19 vaccine access for Sask. educators
Published Tuesday, January 5, 2021 3:16PM CST
Grade one teacher Heidi Dimou arranges the desks in line with physical distancing policy in her class in preparation for the new school year at the Willingdon Elementary School in Montreal, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
SASKATOON -- The head of the Saskatoon Teachers' Association wonders where frontline educators fit in the province’s vaccination plan.
As the province rolls out its first COVID-19 immunizations, some in education are wondering when frontline teachers are going to be prioritized.
The fact that teachers and school staff are not on this initial vaccination list is concerning for the president of the Saskatoon Teacher’s Association, John McGettigan.
He believes the risk of staff shortages due to illness is a worry with schools already facing a substitute teacher shortage.
"Teachers should be in that line very close behind healthcare workers. Kids wellbeing is our priority and the more we can keep kids in school the better off society is," McGettigan told CTV News.
There was a general excitement among school staff about the vaccine, McGettigan said.
"Then the timeline started to play out and there was a question of where will we fit in? I think it’s pretty hard to argue that teachers should be in that lineup and be prioritized," he said.
It is anticipated Phase 2 of the province’s vaccination plan will begin in April with additional priority groups and the general population getting the coronavirus shot.
"I represent almost 4000 teachers in the province, and I think we need to set aside that many vaccines for those people in February or March and if not sooner," McGettigan said.
The Ministry of Health says it is following the national guidelines to decide who gets the vaccine first in Saskatchewan and that all provinces are using the same recommendations to determine prioritization.
The president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, Patrick Maze said educators were told at the outset of school opening in September, that children would be asymptomatic in large part which makes the lack of a vaccination plan for school staff, problematic.
"We are seeing some situations where younger kids are getting ill, but that being said there are still overall relatively low numbers yet we know that that the adults in the buildings aren’t protected in the same fashion so if we want to keep the buildings open, we need adults working there. That includes teachers, educational assistants and maintenance staff and everyone in the buildings," Maze said.
The Ministry of Health told CTV News Tuesday afternoon that it is planning a media availability this week where the issue of teacher vaccinations "will likely come up" but would not provide specifics.