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Don Martin: Forget the birth certificate. The job should dictate the jab, starting with teachers

Don Martin: Forget the birth certificate. The job should dictate the jab, starting with teachers
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Masks regularly slip or get removed. Student groups soak up the sun between classes in close potentially-contagious circles. The youngest yearn to reach out and touch someone, usually their teacher. And every day those students head home to a bubble bath of exposure from parents and siblings who have been god-knows-where in social circulation.

Teachers know theyre in the COVID-19 danger zone, particularly with variants on the uptick in school systems and victims getting younger. Yet they show up in class every day, trying not to project apprehension while giving students an emotional connection to normal and keeping their academic advancement lurching along.

Incredibly, while 80 per cent of teachers in the U.S. have received their first dose, most Canadian teachers remain far enough down the priority list that school could break for the summer before some get the shot.

Prisoners are a vaccination priority. Indigenous communities are a top priority. Both are worthy of that special status, so why not teachers amid the struggle to keep schools open?

Lost in this current outbreak of vaccine vacillation is the slowly-dawning political realization that the wrong people are being prioritized for the shot.

If the overarching goal is to curb overcrowded hospitalization, the date on a birth certificate should no longer matter now that front-liners, long-term care staff and retirement home workers are largely vaccinated.

Its time to hit the arms of workers who need it the most, not healthy people under the age of 65.

In other words, to get personal for a moment, it makes no sense for me to have received the shot two weeks ago while my nephew, who teaches music in an elementary school, cant access a vaccine for the foreseeable future.

It should be the job that dictates the jab in this third wave, specifically the public exposure the work entails, the proximity to outbreaks and perhaps special consideration for those trapped in employment without a sick leave safety net enabling them to stay at home.

Mercifully there are signs some premiers are getting hit with a bolt of common sense and moving teachers and other essential workers up the list, although Ontario is limiting it to special education teachers and those in hot zones.

But this also points to the need for a change in perspectives as COVID-19 enters a final deadly phase with far too many vaccines still in storage and politicians flailing away with biweekly lockdown changes.

Politicians must stop viewing every open restaurant patio or retail store as an overcrowding threat to hospital emergency wards. They should instead look at every vaccine stuck in storage as an intensive care admission they could avoid if injected into arms.

For once, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wasnt delivering breathless empty rhetoric when he said a vaccine wave was coming this spring. The doses are pouring in.

Yet despite having months to prepare a realistic rollout, most provinces are failing to treat vaccine distribution with life-or-death urgency.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu hasnt exactly been a shining star of political leadership during this pandemic, but shes right to tweet out the daily count of vaccines sent to each province and let them explain the still-in-a-freezer count.

On average, provinces have administered only two thirds of their vaccine deliveries with a supply surge about to ramp up far beyond their capacity to inject them into arms.

For premiers, its their moment to seize by ending the complicated hodge-podge of age-driven vaccination and impose a new order on a rapid rollout.

Healthy baby boomers can wait. Lets get vaccines into meatpackers, bus drivers, grocery store clerks and anyone else of any age in essential jobs.

And because theres no better investment in our healthy post-pandemic tomorrow than the classrooms of today, put all teachers at the front of the line.
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