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Looks like child care providers will start getting vaccinated in February. The news comes as a relief for members of the early care and education community, many of whom have been working in-person for months. 

According to an email from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, all staff who work in-person at a licensed child care facility will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through One Medical beginning in February. The agency is asking facilities to send a list of eligible staff to ECEHelpDesk@dc.gov by Thursday, Jan 28 at 12 p.m.

“This will ensure that when the time comes to begin making vaccination appointments, we are ready to move quickly,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser last night via Twitter

After the mayor’s team announced on Jan. 19 that public school staff and police were eligible to get vaccinated this week if they report to work in-person, child care providers, along with advocates, questioned why their employees weren’t considered if a majority of them had already been working in person. There are an estimated 7,000 child care employees in the District, many of whom are women of color without union protections.    

“This is a good first step towards protecting public health and equity,” tweeted Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George in response to the news that child care providers are getting vaccinated in February. She, along with three other councilmembers, wrote to DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, asking her to prioritize child care providers alongside public school staff. Lawmakers also requested a justification for DC Health’s decision. The agency has yet to provide a written response, but George’s office views the recent news as one. 

In an interview with City Paper, Dr. Ankoor Shah of DC Health assured the public that child care providers, along with private school staff, are in the same phase group and tier as public school staff and police. Given the short supply of vaccine doses, the agency had to prioritize within Phase 1b tier 2, which includes grocery store workers as well. (Nesbitt also reiterated this during a Monday press conference, where she wore a mask that says “DC needs more vaccine.”) “We made an intentional decision that the education sector is actually the most important, and those that are serving public school students,” said Shah when explaining the rationale behind the priority scheme.  

Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, the director of early childhood policy and programs at DC Action for Children, believes child care workers were overlooked because they are strictly viewed as babysitters or daycare workers and not educators, even though they use play and other types of instruction to help children’s development. 

“We have a long history in this country of not valuing that kind of work, in our racist history in particular,” says Anbar-Shaheen. “They are used to being not valued. This put their lives and safety in the mix as well.”

Caregiving is often devalued, as evident in the poor wages and limited professional development opportunities in the early childhood workforce prior to the coronavirus pandemic. “Child care workers and preschool teachers are in the bottom quintile of annual salaries in the United States, averaging less than $30,000 per year,” according to a recent report from the Center of American Progress. Closing schools for in-person instruction showed K-12 educators act as caregivers as well, notes Anbar-Shaheen. Others have argued school is a form of childcare.  

“We are happy to know they are being acknowledged. But at the end of the day, nothing has really changed. Child care teachers don’t know when they’ll be vaccinated,” adds Anbar-Shaheen. (Officials did not specify when in February child care workers would be able to book an appointment.) “Every day is an important day to not be vaccinated.” 

—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Daily case rate and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are still in the red, at Phase 0/1 levels. To see today’s coronavirus cases and more information, visit our coronavirus dashboard. [EOM]
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