They were considered “essential” when the virus initially spread. They remained open for health care and other essential employees who did not have the opportunity to stay home with their kids. Yet, no matter their hero status, Gov. Mike DeWine has decided not to include preschool and early child care workers in phase 1B of Ohio’s coronavirus vaccine plan, which is a potentially fatal mistake.
Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine plan for phase 1B includes those 65 and up, those with chronic health conditions and K-12 educators. DeWine’s plan neglects the preschool and early child care workers who prepare students to enter the K-12 system, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that they be included in phase 1B vaccine rollouts.
In neglecting these educators, DeWine is leaving these workers more vulnerable to contracting the virus. Not only are these educators the foundation for students in teaching self-care skills, such as potty training and hand washing, but now they have to relay the importance of mask wearing to children under the age of 5. There is also the challenge of keeping kids 6 feet apart at all times. Plus, those caring for infants have to be especially careful since children under 2 are not supposed to wear masks due to the potential of suffocation.
In neglecting to include preschool and early child care workers as part of the educators who need to get vaccinated, key disparities are being pointed out in the vaccine rollout. For instance, preschool educators who work as part of school districts have received their vaccines. This points out the unfair treatment and conditions educators endure if they are not part of a public institution.
There is also the disparity of race. In 2019, 95% of child care workers were women, and 42% were Black, Latino or Asian. Women of color are already facing issues in receiving the vaccine in terms of access and availability. Child care educators cannot wait in long lines outside of clinics and stadiums to receive the vaccine. There is also the issue of people of color being more vulnerable to contracting the virus. In neglecting to prioritize the vaccination of these essential workers, the racial gap in health care widens.
Early child care workers have been supporting the nation since the beginning of this pandemic. They have been caring for families of health care, law enforcement, transportation and food production employees. These essential workers deserve to be part of the first phase of Ohio’s vaccine plan. Neglecting to do so establishes the idea that these workers are not important and do not matter. Gov. DeWine needs to adjust his plan so that all essential workers are protected.
Iana Fields is a sophomore studying English creative writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Iana? Tweet her @FieldsIana.