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Vaccine priority for teachers gains traction

Teachers and education workers are essential workers, and as such should be prioritized for vaccines.

Tuesday April 13, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC

ANALYSIS | by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends

During the COVID pandemic there has been a growing call for prioritization of essential workers to be receiving the available COVID vaccines, including teachers.

We may not always think of teachers as frontline essential workers, but under the legislated education mandate in BC, yes for sure they are required to deliver education.

Teachers interface with students and support staff all day, then they go home to their families who have possibly been interacting with other social bubbles in their day. The children interface with other children all day at school as well as their teachers and other adults in the school, then they go home to their families. Same for the support staff — interacting within the school then heading home to family. It’s potentially a potent mix for COVID viral transmission.

Let’s note, for the social and emotional impact of this: parents are not allowed into schools during this pandemic (dropping kids at the door and leaving them in the hands of the education system). Decades ago it was parents who took their child

Leadership on Twitter:

Island Social Trends articulated that trend on Twitter in recent days. On April 4 we started with: “If there’s a specific of hope this Easter it’s that teachers will be next as essential workers to be offered COVID vaccines — also protects students & families, and helps support #bced which is one of @jjhorgan top mantras.”

Island Social Trends, Twitter
Posting Premier Horgan’s Easter statement on Twitter, April 4, 2021.

The trend on Twitter:

As the Twitterverse of education enthusiasts (or critics) responded, Island Social Trends repeated the message in these responses, on April 6:

Island Social Trends, Twitter
Making sense of vaccine prioritization for educators who interface with students in schools. [Twitter – April 6, 2021]
  • “In BC there’s still time for leadership @jjhorgan to pivot the public health agenda to prioritize vaccination for #bced teachers & child care operators to also protect children & families as now more #COVID19BC#school exposures & #P1 severe illness in young people. #bcpoli
  • “There’s still time for leadership @jjhorgan@adriandix to be proactive: prioritize #vaccination for teachers #bced to help contain #COVID19BC spread in light of more school exposures and #P1 digging in with more severe illness. Pivot that new phone line to put @bctf at top.”
  • “It’s not about ‘more deserving’, we’re all ‘deserving’. It’s about realizing where #COVID19 bullets are flying… just smart strategy to protect groups that interface the most & also supports @jjhorgan#bced major plank of protecting public #education (kids have lost a yr #bced).” | replying to @Stowe48953061 who had written: ‘So these folks feel more deserving than others that are deemed more vulnerable? I for one do not agree..teachers have become so demanding and really seem to think they are better and more special than anyone else.’
  • “I’m not a teacher and was not speaking on behalf of @bctf in any way. Just doing my job here in #journalism to look at the #trends and state the obvious. #bcpoli#bced#cdnpoli” | replying to @Stowe48953061 who had written: ‘BCTF comes across as very demanding..teachers are great at teaching..however, I trust our health care professionals to do what’s best based on facts..not the teacher’s opinions’

Calling for vaccination of teachers:

Jagmeet Singh, NDP
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed media on Sunday April 11, 2021 during the NDP convention in Ottawa.

And now today the NDP party for Canada has come out with affirming that teachers and education workers should be on the priority list for vaccines. After meeting with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation today, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that teachers and education workers are essential workers, and as such should be prioritized for vaccines.

He calls on the federal government to use ‘every tool they have’ to help provinces and territories with the vaccination roll-out. The federal government is responsible for procuring/providing vaccines, while the provinces administer them in the arms of their citizens.

Many in the education community — including teachers themselves — are calling for the prioritization of vaccination for their sector. Many teachers say they feel unsafe being in-person in the classroom. They’ve been saying that since right after the first-wave, through the second wave, and now into the third wave of the COVID pandemic (third wave definitively declared by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry in her April 12 COVID media session).

BC has kept schools open:

Dr Bonnie Henry, March 2021
Variants of concern are driving much of the current transmission, said Dr Bonnie Henry on March 29, 2021.

Other than in the first wave when all pandemic responses were being worked out, BC has kept schools open (with remote learning options).

Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry says that schools are a controlled environment: it’s known who is there and when they have interacted. She has stood by that assessment throughout the pandemic, and the BC Government has had her back on that.

As of March 29, Dr Henry mandated that face masks be worn at all times in school by kids in Grades 4 to 12. Previous to that, masks didn’t need to be worn by students when they were working at their desks.

As of April 12 there are 19 schools on Vancouver Island with active COVID exposure notices as posted by Island Health (10 high schools, five middle schools and four elementary schools). Of those, two have been elevated to cluster status (both at middle schools — one in SD61 and one in SD62). Island Health provides these definitions:

  • Exposure: The presence of lab confirmed COVID-19 case(s) in the school during the period of communicability.
  • Cluster: Two or more confirmed cases within a 14-day period, with evidence of transmission occurring within the school. 
  • Outbreak: Multiple confirmed cases within a 14-day period, with evidence of ongoing transmission occurring within the school and the school medical health officer has determined exceptional measures are required to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
SEAPARC, DeMamiel Creek Golf Course, 2021
DeMamiel Creek Golf Course is open for the 2021 season.
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