Early childcare workers petition to receive COVID-19 vaccine along with Ohio’s teachers

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Early childhood educators in Northeast Ohio have petitioned to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at the same time as Ohio’s teachers.

 “We are shocked we weren’t included as educators,” said Jessica Robins, the director of early childhood services at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.

 Robins was disappointed to learn that early childcare providers were not included in Phase 1B of Ohio’s vaccine distribution plan.

“From very early on, the message was early childhood care providers are essential workers.  We need them back in the classroom.  We need to open up to young children because their parents need to be at work,” said Robins.

The center reopened back in July to half the amount of kids they normally see.

“We’ve been open for the past 7 months and we are still putting ourselves at risk.  Children are not socially distanced at this age. It’s not appropriate nor is it feasible,” said Robins.

 “It kind of makes us feel like we aren’t as important as the regular education teachers,” said Willa Smith, CEO of Here for You Child Development Center.

Here For You has five locations in the Akron area.

Smith says staff at childcare centers need to move to the same priority level as K-12 teachers.

“We are educators just like teachers in the typical setting.  I would like them to give us the same respect,” said Smith.

Robins spearheaded a Change.org petition to lobby Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.  Right now, it has over 18,000 signatures.

It’s an effort heard by State Rep. Monique Smith of Fairview Park, who urged the Governor and the Ohio Department of Health director to prioritize the childcare workforce in the vaccine rollout.

“Child care providers and K-12 educators are integral to a child’s development and should be valued as such. Prioritization of the vaccine for educators and childcare workers is crucial in keeping Ohioans safe and creating a positive learning environment for children,” said Rep. Smith in a statement. “Without access to the COVID-19 vaccine for early childhood educators- families, women, and children cannot thrive in our state.”

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