The head of the teachers association in Maple Ridge is disappointed that educators are no longer a priority for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Trevor Takasaki, President of the Maple Ridge Teachers Association, believes that B.C. government should make teachers a higher priority for vaccines because of their roll maintaining what “limited sense of normalcy” there is in society.
“It is because teachers are teaching full time again – with full classes – that it possible for parents to return to work, and students to continue their education,” said Takasaki.
“And even though the district has done well as far as exposures go for our health region, the stress of working with so many students – who are not required to wear masks in classes – has a significant physical, psychological and emotional toll on teachers,” he continued.
Takasaki was responding to the provincial government’s announcement on Friday that the next phase of B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan, phase three, will go according to age – and will not be given to front-line workers in advance.
According to the provincial government, around 7.4 million doses of vaccine will be given to every eligible British Columbian from April until the end of September, starting with those aged 79 to 75 and working backwards in five year increments to include those aged 60 and over.
Also included in this phase will be those with underlying health conditions.
In phase one, more than 103,000 people in the province received their first dose of the vaccine with second doses underway. Phase two began in late February where vaccinations were expanded to include additional vulnerable populations, Indigenous communities and Elders, health-care staff and all seniors over the age of 80.
July is the anticipated start date for phase four, with people aged 59 to 55 getting their vaccines and working backwards again in five year increments until everyone over the age of 18, who wants a vaccine, has received one.
The province contends that the four-phased COVID-19 Immunization Plan is based on scientific evidence and expert advice and guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, B.C.’s Immunization Committee and the province’s public health leadership committee.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our province, with steady guidance by Dr. Bonnie Henry, has made decisions based on science, data and evidence from health experts,” said Minister of Health, Adrian Dix.
“Our plan puts people at the forefront of every decision, and our immunization roll-out will guide us through the spring and summer, ensuring that those who are most in need of the vaccine will receive it as soon as possible,” he asserted.
B.C. Teacher’s Federation president Teri Mooring is hoping that as more vaccines are approved then the province’s immunization strategy can be, “appropriately adjusted and accelerated”.
“There had been hope in prior announcements that such prioritization would be possible. However, the vaccine supply limit is beyond our control and those among us who are most vulnerable of death and serious illness must be vaccinated first,” noted Mooring.
However, she said, it is “disappointing” that the government has not made the choice to protect teachers.
“There is no denying that teachers are stressed, anxious, and even afraid. We do not have the layers of protection in our schools that exist in other environments.,” she said, adding that if they are not a priority for vaccinations then measures must be taken to improve safety measures in schools including a mandatory mask mandate, better physical distancing measures and ventilation upgrades for classrooms.
Takasaki can’t think of another work environment where employees work with so many people – who are not required to wear masks – in an indoor environment.
“It is disappointing that the government, which has set the mandate for teacher’s working conditions, has not chosen to protect them better by making them a higher priority for vaccines,” he said.
Pre-registration for a reminder to book an appointment when eligible for a vaccine will open online and by phone for the general public in March.