A few weeks ago one of our many amazing supporters, Simone Flanagan, has started a petition calling on the Federal Government to prioritise the vaccination of Early Childhood Educators. So far, over 4000 people have signed the petition. The Parenthood has partnered with Sim to amplify the call and we've asked Sim a few questions about the petition and how she found the time and energy to start it.
Can you explain to us why you started this petition?
I started this petition because I was (and still am) shocked that early childhood educators have not been prioritised as part of the vaccine roll-out. Over the past 18 months, the educators at childcare centres around Australia, and the centre my two-and-a-half-year-old son attends, have been vulnerable. They have provided a safe and secure environment for our children, which has been even more important during these uncertain times. Yet unlike other essential services that can be done remotely or with PPE, you can’t socially distance from young children! I wanted to highlight the vitally important work that early childhood educators do, and to advocate for them to have access to the COVID vaccine.
What do you want to achieve with the petition?
I initially wanted to get the word out to encourage other parents to advocate for priority access to the vaccine, to protect the workers – but now with the Delta variant affecting children (and schools and childcare centres in different states being exposure sites), it is even more important that we vaccinate our education workers. My hope is that the Federal and State Governments will urgently add all childcare workers to stage 1B of the vaccine roll-out - meaning they will have access to the Pfizer vaccine. I know that the Astra Zeneca vaccine is a great vaccine (many family members and friends have rolled up their sleeves to get it) but the time between shots, means workers won’t be fully protected for 12+ weeks. And in recent days, some states have added Pfizer eligibility for 16/18-39 year olds – but the reality is Pfizer is in limited supply, and many educators face long waits to access appointments. We need our early childhood workers protected NOW – prioritising them by adding them to stage 1B protects them and keeps our families, children and the broader community safe.More than 4000 people have already signed the petition. Are you surprised about this positive reaction?
I’m really happy that so many people have shared and signed the petition to date (thank you!) – but I’m not surprised it’s resonated with parents and families – every parent I speak to is concerned about the risk of exposing their children to COVID! Even more so now that the Delta variant is so prevalent. I now hope that enough people sign it that members of the Federal and State Government realise how vulnerable these workers are, and that they have to take notice.
You work and you are a mum - how did you find the time and energy to start this petition and promote it?
It was a bit of a juggle to try to find time to create this petition and promote it – as I work part time and have a busy toddler, but I felt it was so important, that I worked on it after hours, and on my day off. I’m also on the committee of management at my son’s childcare centre, and the conversations I was having with his educators at drop off and pick up highlighted how concerned so many were – and this motivated me to find time to try to help to change things. And with more and more young children affected by COVID-19 in Australia (more than 3000 cases in the under 9 age group to date, amounting to approx. 30% of cases in NSW and 25% of cases in VIC during this current outbreak), it felt like something that I needed to prioritise – to help protect my family and others around Australia.
Thank you for your amazing work and thank you for taking the time to talk to us!