Vaccine roll-out underway for local teachers

A public health nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine. (File photo supplied by Southwestern Public Health)

Education workers in Sarnia-Lambton have started receiving their COVID-19 vaccine.

Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) St. Clair Secondary President Chad Coene confirmed the news on Monday.

The province included education workers in Phase II of the vaccination rollout plan, a time period from April to the end of July.

Coene said St. Clair teachers thought it would take quite awhile longer for their members to be included in the roll-out.

“But then recently, I would say maybe mid-March, Lambton Public Health reached out to the school board and was requesting information, such as our phone numbers, to get a hold of us eventually, and then it sort of came together very quickly last week. So this is barely a process that is a week old,” he said. “While I represent the teachers, I’m very pleased to say that this was an invitation to all education workers that either are from Lambton County or teach in a school in Lambton County.”

Coene said workers began pre-registering early last week, adding that the process has been very smooth so far.

“And a number of teachers were actually vaccinated on Saturday, and then I know of several more groups that are getting vaccinated this Wednesday and Thursday. So [I’m] really pleased.”

Coene said while they’re extremely thankful for what’s happening in Lambton, he doesn’t get the sense that this is happening across the province at the same speed.

“I know that the teachers we represent in Chatham-Kent are still waiting for their bookings, and honestly I don’t think that there’s a lot of teachers that have been vaccinated across the province yet. We’re probably one of the luckiest groups to be moving along this quickly.”

On Monday, OECTA and ETFO (Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario) called on Ford government to prioritize education workers for vaccinations.

Coene said it’s absolutely critical that education workers get vaccinated.

“With the new variants of concern, the numbers of cases in Ontario schools are skyrocketing. In the last 14 days, for example, there are something like 2,500 new cases in schools, 25 per cent of schools have at least one case, and we’re at an all time high of 65 or 66 schools that are completely closed due to COVID,” he said. “If you want to slow down community transmission and make the schools as safe as possible, then it’s critical that all education workers are vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

As of April 1, there were 19 schools across Sarnia-Lambton reporting at least one positive student or staff case.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Ontario’s education minister released a statement on the vaccine rollout process for Sarnia-Lambton education workers.

Deputy Director of Communications Caitlin Clark said Education Minister Stephen Lecce continues to advocate for all education workers to get access to the vaccine as soon as possible.

“We welcome this progress, and will continue to work province-wide to ensure hard working education staff, bus drivers, and child care staff can gain access to the vaccine and further improve the safety of schools,” said Clark in an email to Blackburn News.