Childcare workers want to be prioritised when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP).
It comes as some creches and full-day care service providers are set to reopen tomorrow.
The representative group is calling on the Government and Children's Minister Roderic O’Gorman for all childcare staff to be included, as a priority group, in the vaccine roll-out plan.
“We need to be included in the vaccine priority list,“ said Elaine Dunne, chairperson of FECP.
“We now know that the new variant of the virus is more prevalent in children. This leaves staff wide open to contracting the virus as young children cannot socially distance,” Ms Dunne added.
She says, that as it stands, childcare providers have no protection.
“Many staff are extremely fearful about returning to work, especially those who have underlying conditions. Many have vulnerable adults/children living at home and are concerned about contracting the virus and infecting their family members,” Ms Dunne said.
Ms Dunne acknowledged that the minister had advocated on their behalf in the resumption of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme, which will now be delayed until January 11, when schools are due to reopen. She also said they are confident he will do so again, should primary and secondary schools remain closed.
However, other childcare providers were asked to stay open for priority groups, such as children of essential workers and children from vulnerable groups.
“The minister has asked that childcare be provided for priority groups. We acknowledge that there is a huge need for childcare so people can return to work, but providers across the country are struggling with staff shortages and with the challenge of who they can accept back into their services. It is impossible to pick and choose and prioritise one child above another,” Ms Dunne said.
The ECCE pre-school programme is delivered by more than 4,000 services nationwide. It provides two years of State-funded pre-school for all children in the eligible age group, for three hours a day, with more than 100,000 children enrolled in the programme.