Early childhood teachers need vaccination priority: Open letter to Ministers
Open letter to the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant: Priority vaccinations for staff in early childhood services
Dear Premier, Minister and Chief Medical Officer,
I write on behalf of the NSW/ACT Branch of the Independent Education Union of Australia as an Early Childhood Education Organiser representing the Illawarra and the South Coast region. I am also the President of the South Coast Labour Council, the peak union body on the South Coast of NSW. Many of our delegates have members who are front line workers keeping essential services operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the advance of the highly transmissible Delta strain of COVID-19, essential workers like nurses, doctors, paramedics, police, cleaners, firefighters and supermarket staff who have young children have been able to continue working thanks to the efforts of early childhood teachers and educators.
Across NSW early learning centres and preschools have remained open every day during this current wave of the pandemic. The irony is that for much of this time early childhood workers themselves have not been classified as essential workers and have not been afforded priority access to vaccines.
I commend your recent decision to offer vaccinations to the sector in the LGAs of concern. However, I believe this decision needs to be extended to the whole of NSW for all early childhood employees. If our early childhood sector, currently providing a safe place for our essential workers to leave their children in care, starts to crumble, it will leave our essential systems of operations in a precarious state. This could see our hospitals, vaccination hubs, policing, supermarkets and other essential services fall apart. In a nutshell, if the childcare needs of our essential workers cannot be met, they may have no other option but to take leave from their workplaces, adding further burden to an already stressed workforce.
With COVID-19 infections spreading rapidly, I ask that you look to vaccinate the early childhood sector before we reach critical infection rates in other areas. This is essential to ensure that the health and safety of early childhood staff and children are protected. I ask that you provide the early childhood workforce with immediate priority access to vaccines.