Thousands of staff members with schools in Ontario’s Niagara area will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 starting this Saturday.
As many as 4,000 educators and others who work at District School Board Niagara (DSBN) schools can get their shots between April 10 and 18, according to a release from the board.
Niagara’s Catholic school board also said roughly 2,000 eligible staff can sign up to receive their shots at the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Recreation in St. Catharine’s. The goal is to get people vaccinated before the April 19 return to classes following the spring break.
“Schools are microcosms of the community, and we know that we are not immune to being affected by community cases,” said Camillo Cipriano, director of education for the Niagara Catholic District School Board, in a statement.
“We recognize how easy it is to transmit COVID-19, especially the new variants of concern,” he said. “This is one more step towards what most of us recognize as a normal school year, hopefully in September.”
Both boards thanked Niagara Health and Niagara Region Public Health, as well as the hospital system for advocating for school staff to get shots as soon as possible.
“Vaccinating staff who work in schools means that another layer of safety and protection is there for students, staff, and their families,” said Warren Hoshizaki, DSBN director of education, in a media release.
DSBN said that, with provincial plans to keep schools open, it has been pushing for staff to get vaccinated, describing shots for school workers as “critical.”
With incredible support from <a href=”https://twitter.com/NRPublicHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NRPublicHealth</a> & <a href=”https://twitter.com/niagarahealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@niagarahealth</a>, 4,000 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/DSBN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#DSBN</a> staff who work in our schools can get the COVID-19 vaccine! Access to the vaccine will help keep our students, staff & families safe. THANK YOU <a href=”https://twitter.com/NRPublicHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NRPublicHealth</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/niagarahealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@niagarahealth</a>! 💙🔗: <a href=”https://t.co/S8rjM1vwoH”>https://t.co/S8rjM1vwoH</a> <a href=”https://t.co/AXZIo0PPLZ”>pic.twitter.com/AXZIo0PPLZ</a>
“NRPH and Niagara Health have gone above and beyond to ensure that staff who work in schools are vaccinated, and we are incredibly thankful,” DSBN chair Sue Barnett said in the release.
“By making this decision, they have increased the safety of our students, staff and their families for the rest of the year.”
The board says staff are working with health officials this week to sort out the logistics of providing shots so they can begin this weekend.
No word yet on shots for HWDSB staff
A spokesperson said just before noon ET on Tuesday that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has not received any update on when staff can expect to get vaccinated.
“There’s no doubt that we continue to advocate for education workers to receive the vaccination,” wrote Shawn McKillop in an email. “We’re staying hopeful and continue to work with Hamilton Public Health Services.”
HWDSB director of education Manny Figueiredo also said the board of trustees and executive council continue to push for education workers to have priority access to the vaccine.
“Education workers are essential, especially in this third wave, and plans should be adjusted to recognize your value and to keep schools open,” he said in a message to staff Monday.
Local teachers’ unions, meanwhile, are ramping up calls for their members to get vaccinated.
Daryl Jerome, president of the local bargaining unit of Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said in an email to CBC that local public health “needs to take Niagara Health’s lead and prioritize vaccines for education workers, now.”
Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Local for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said the union has also received no information about vaccinations for members.
He pointed to the HWDSB’s call for vaccines, saying he was “confused by the apparent disconnect” between pushing for shots and keeping schools open for in-person learning.
“If vaccines are necessary to keep staff and students safe, then why are we still open when we don’t have access to vaccines?”
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