Federation of Early Childhood Providers says it could be autumn before all staff vaccinated

Wed, Mar 31, 2021, 12:23Cormac McQuinnChildcare providers have joined teacher and gardaí in criticising changes to the vaccine rollout plan. Photograph: Getty

Childcare providers have joined teacher and gardaí in criticising changes to the vaccine rollout plan. Photograph: GettyShare to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email App

A group representing childcare providers has hit out at the changes to the allocations of Covid-19 vaccines, calling the new system “unacceptable”.

The national vaccination programme is to change to an age-based system once those aged 70 years and older, the vulnerable and people with underlying conditions are immunised.

Childcare providers have joined teachers unions and groups representing gardaí in criticising the plan.

The Federation of Early Childhood Providers (FECP) – which represents around 1,700 crèches – is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to discuss the change.

Childcare practitioners, like teachers, were in the eleventh group in the original order of sequencing to receive the vaccine and had been arguing for a higher prioritisation even before the change.

With a young cohort of workers the FECP now fear that it could be autumn before all childcare staff are vaccinated and it has said this is “unacceptable.”

In a statement the FECP said: “Frontline healthcare professionals and essential workers could simply not work without knowing that their children are safe and cared for. 

“And yet, with no protection from Covid-19 in place for early learning and childcare workers, many of our caring facilities for children have now become a dangerous place to be. It is unfathomable.”

FECP chairwoman Elaine Dunne said that Government intervention in the form of antigen testing and the “speedy vaccination of early learning and childcare workers is now urgently required, if the sector is to continue to support parents and families.”

She said that while providers have put the recommended healthcare procedures in place social distancing is not possible with infants in crèches.

She also raised concerns that “children are generally asymptomatic for the virus” but can carry Covid-19 putting childcare workers and their families at risk.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin argued on Tuesday that the change to the allocation of vaccines will simplify and accelerate the rollout.

He said: “There are many, many genuine and justifiable arguments that can be made in respect of many professions, if we are honest, but we want to make sure we can get vaccinations rolled out as quickly as we possibly can so we can get greater protection to those who need it most.”