I’m sitting in my office at home, after a day of teaching online, and I just tried to book my vaccine appointment, only to realize that since I don’t live in a hotspot, I’m not eligible. However, I want the vaccine. I have wanted it for months, and I knew that as soon as they become available, I would be in line for it. It’s frustrating that as an educator, I am unable to access it based on my home address, even though my job requires a high level of interaction with persons each day.
Since the start of the year, Ontario schools have been transitioning between periods of in-person learning and online learning. I had always been apprehensive, and anxious to be in the classroom because of the number of people that I’d been in contact with, through my job. However, by March, it became clearer to me that it wasn’t safe to be in the classroom. The cases in Ontario rose tremendously and begun averaging almost 4000 cases a day.
By Easter break (April 2nd-5th), I was more concerned about the possibility of cases in my school as students went on break and would potentially interact with family and friends during the long weekend. As this rise in cases in the province happened, the government continued to ‘reassure’ the population that schools were safe, and that there wasn’t anything to be concerned about. Meanwhile, there were schools across the province that had active cases. I felt as an educator that I was being conned. I knew that schools couldn’t be safe, even if the government kept saying so when there are so many people who interact with one another every day. It felt as if the government weren’t truly considering the health and safety of the staff at schools, who were going into schools with little protection against the virus.
As this happened, and as Easter break neared its end, I began to feel more anxious about returning to work. I had a feeling that the clock was ticking, and that I was bound to contract COVID-19, when I went back to school, especially with the vast rise in cases the vaccine efforts in Ontario had been extremely slow. They hadn’t considered teachers to be in Phase 1 of the vaccination roll-out plans, and it felt as if Phase 2 (which we were a part of) was taking rather long to begin. Regardless of slow vaccination roll-out, the Minister of Education required teachers to report to work, still reporting that schools were safe. Throughout all this, I just remembered wanting the vaccine.
I found it ridiculous that educators and other essential workers were not being considered to be vaccinated sooner but were being asked to go to work as usual. I would’ve been more settled if we were able to work from home, and asked to wait longer for the vaccine because at least I wouldn’t feel unsafe in my work environment. From my conversations with other educators, a lot of us had the same question: why was the government taking so long to vaccinate us? It was especially frustrating when we saw educators in various states in the United States get their vaccine (we were happy for them!) when we weren’t getting information about when we would get ours.
Eventually, Ontario schools transitioned to online learning as COVID-19 cases soared and the government enacted a province-wide stay-at-home order. They’ve also opened up various hot spot locations for vaccines. My address currently isn’t considered a hot spot, and so, I’m still waiting patiently for the vaccine. Given the shortage in Ontario, persons aren’t getting their 2nd dose for more than 10 weeks after their first dose. I want to be able to get both doses before the new school year in September, and at least the first dose before possibly returning to school in May. I’ve been seeing a lot of debates considering whether to take the vaccine, but I think it’s up to each person to decide whether they want to take the vaccine. Personally, I miss my students and I am tired of feeling nervous every time I step into my classroom that I’ll be sick. I am willing to feel less paranoid that every throat tickle or sniffle or cough means I have Covid-19. I want to be able to go home, after over a year, and see my family and friends back home. I know the vaccine isn’t foolproof but I’m willing to take this step for my peace of mind and safety.
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