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Child care providers worry about access to vaccine doses

child care

MADISON (WKOW) -- Teachers, school staff and child care providers are set to become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 1, but actually getting access to doses is a harder task.

Public Health Madison & Dane County is trying to help. The department ordered 14,000 vaccine doses specifically for K-12 staff. Initially, the announcement didn't include plans to vaccinate child care workers in the state.

"When we saw the announcement, I think there was some frustration," Ruth Schmidt, executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, said Sunday. "Child care should have been rolled out the same as our K-12 system, in terms of access to vaccines."

There was swift pushback from area child care providers. Three hours after originally sharing the news on social media, PHMDC updated its post to say the department is "actively working on plans to vaccinate childcare providers on the same timeline as K-12 school staff." No details of that plan are available yet.

Schmidt said early childhood educators need help from health officials because it's harder for child care providers to organize large-scale vaccination clinics.

"What we hear periodically is that school districts have been able to arrange for group access to vaccines that will be happening for multiple groups of teachers at a given time," she said. "[Child care] is not organized like a school system is. It is thousands of independent businesses across the state."

Schmidt said child care workers shouldn't have to wait months after becoming eligible to get vaccinated because of the work they've been doing for the past year.

"Child care across the entire state has been encouraged to remain open through the entire pandemic to serve the needs of essential workers," she said. "It's been meeting the needs of families with infants and toddlers, along with meeting the needs of a lot of school aged children."

Schmidt said although PHMDC has clarified its policy plans, she and other advocates are worried child care providers will continue to be left behind as other localities move forward with vaccination plans.

"We've heard the same concerns coming from other counties," she said. "We just want to ensure that childcare providers, people working in this field have access to vaccines."

Neena Pacholke

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