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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

Teachers need to be on vaccine priority list

There’s only so much our teachers can take.

Every school day they put their health at risk, spending six or more hours a day masked up in one room packed with kids from different families, while the rest of us are told to do the opposite and instead work from home in order to stay away from potential carriers of COVID-19. It is a stressful, underfunded job at the best of times, but they are carrying out a Herculean task of doing their main job of teaching as well as enforcing sanitary measures under the strain of this pandemic.

Now to add insult to injury (maybe it’s injury to insult, we still don’t know the potential impact on their health) teachers and support staff find out that one particular kind of mask being distributed in schools and daycares contains potentially hazardous nanoparticles that can be inhaled into the lungs. The exact opposite of a morale boost.

These masks were distributed in our schools in the Hills; a letter sent home to parents of the Western Quebec School Board reads: “Health Canada indicated that a preliminary risk assessment has been conducted, which ‘identified a potential for early pulmonary toxicity associated with the inhalation of nanoform graphene.’ The memo this week from Wakefield Elementary, for example, said all of these masks had been removed from the school and were mainly used by adults.

This is just one reason on a long list as to why teachers need to be put onto the province’s priority list for vaccinations.

Teachers are essential frontline workers; society as a whole (not just the business sector) would eventually grind to a halt without them. Currently, they are the second-to-last rung on the priority vaccination list. If we value education, are concerned about our children’s well being and care about the health of the people teaching and caring for our kids, they deserve to be moved up. Of course doctors, nurses, and senior citizens come first; they need to be bumped ahead of other groups in the general population.

At least three teachers unions have asked for as much, as more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus spread through schools. The president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers said the province’s recent announcement about the return to class for high school students was a “bombshell” for her members, who were not even consulted prior to the decision — in part, because the number of schools with COVID-19 cases is increasing in rates not previously seen because of the variants. This alone should be reason enough to bump up educators and associated staff on the priority list. It should have been done weeks ago, but now it’s urgent.


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