CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Child care teachers and staff in Ohio just started getting vaccinated after fighting for weeks to be considered a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The governor did not include them with K-12 teachers and staff in phase 1B.
19 News spoke with a local teacher relieved to get her first dose.
Bela Mittelman is a teacher at Mandel JCC Early Childhood Center in Beachwood.
“What’s really special about the toddler ages is they’re just observing everything, and they’re learning so much so quickly,” she said.
The pandemic shut everything down a year ago, and they switched to virtual learning at first.
But they reopened in person with several safety precautions for the coronavirus in place.
“When school is closed, we go back to virtual. When we’re open, we’re back in person. That’s been a big adjustment,” Mittelman said.
Kids are wearing masks, but back in the classroom, sometimes Bela can forget about the outside world.
“I’m very lucky to feel like life is normal because we play, we read stories, we do art,” she said.
Still, many early childhood teachers, educators, and support staff feel like they’re putting themselves at risk going into work every day.
And because their job is essential to keep parents working, they wanted access to the vaccine as soon as possible.
When they didn’t get that - they started a petition.
“When we heard we would not be included with K-12 teachers, we were completely shocked,” Mittelman said.
They asked for priority access to the coronavirus vaccine and got nearly 25,000 signatures on their petition, which you can read here.
Families were some of their biggest advocates.
“They wrote letters, they made phone calls. And I think they were very aware that our safety was part of theirs,” she said.
Finally this week, Governor DeWine announced those working in childcare services can begin getting vaccinated as part of Phase 1C.
And on Thursday, Bela got her chance.
“I now have my first vaccination, so I’m very, very grateful,” she said.
She hopes other people will be as happy as she is to take it.
“So I feel extremely grateful to be vaccinated, and it’s my utmost hope that every single adult and eventually child in this country will be able to do the same soon rather than later. Because the reality is every single vaccinated person makes all of us safer,” Mittelman said.
People working in law enforcement, corrections officers, and funeral service workers are also in Phase 1C and started getting vaccinated this week if they could get an appointment.