A Nottinghamshire childminder has joined others in calling for early years providers to be added to the vaccine priority list.
Many nursery and childcare providers have continued to work throughout the pandemic, allowing other parents to also keep working.
In the most recent lockdown, the Government announced schools would close to the majority of pupils except those of critical workers or deemed vulnerable.
But it was confirmed early years providers would continue to operate fully.
The decision has lead to calls for more protection in the form of testing, PPE and vaccinations from providers.
Doncaster Council has now been the first local authority to approve priority vaccines for some education workers.
In a joint statement, Phil Holmes, Director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing and Riana Nelson, Director of Learning, Opportunities and Skills confirmed the council was following national guidelines on vaccinations but in addition, was looking to extend the offer.
They added: “We are clarifying to schools and early years settings across Doncaster that at this stage the eligibility for the vaccine will only include staff who provide personal care and support.
“We have also started to collect data from schools and other priority groups to be ready should these national guidelines allow us to provide wider vaccination at a later stage to people in these settings.”
Jenna Norrish, 29, runs her own childminding business from her own home in Ringleas, Cotgrave.
After hearing about the decision in Doncaster, the mum-of-two said: “I think it would be very welcome among childminders.
“The majority I know have continued working and the difference is, childminders welcome children into their homes.
“We still have policies and procedures to follow, but there is no social distancing with little ones.
“I also provide wraparound care with schools so there is further interaction.”
Jenna said the vaccine would be an “added barrier” to protecting her own family and the families she cares for.
She added that some other childminders have had to stop working because of their underlying health issues.
“I personally support seven families to enable them to go to work – I think their situation would be very different if I wasn’t there,” Jenna said.
“It’s a vital job and it would be good to be recognised in this way.
“I didn’t even contemplate we could get so far with the vaccine and now with Doncaster’s situation, maybe there is a chance here too – most early years workers do provide personal care.”
Tom Holmes, managing director at Stepping Stones Day Nursery in Arboretum said he hoped Nottingham City Council would follow suit or the Government would expand the priority list across the country.
He said: “There is no doubt that the vaccine would make everyone feel more reassured, with staff coming into close contact with multiple households daily.
“It is truly vital that we should be high up on the list of vaccinations, of course the most vulnerable and at risk should be protected first, but in my opinion Early Years who have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic should be next in line.”
Karen Richards, who operates four early years provisions in Nottinghamshire is also Chair of the Early Years Consultants Committee for the county.
Ms Richards, said: “The fact remains that it is impossible for us to deliver effective care and education to our children and maintain social distancing; we hug, we wipe away tears, we change nappies, we get sneezed on.
“Despite this, we have had no financial support for PPE, no additional funds for inevitable costs pertaining to staff and maintaining ratios, and the vast majority of settings received nothing from the Government’s business grant scheme.
“Early years education has been somewhat overlooked during this pandemic. But if we are to continue with our roles it is vital that we are recognised in terms of our role as economy enablers and thereby prioritised as soon as possible for the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Of course there is an important process in terms of vaccinating the infirm and the critically vulnerable. No-one would wish to receive a vaccine that could potentially save an individual’s life, but statistics are now showing a massive increase in infection rates across early years provisions specifically.
“Doncaster have recognised these statistics and subsequently worked hard to secure vaccinations for early years staff and we would urge Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City local authorities to do the same.”
A spokesman for Nottingham City Council: “We’re supporting the NHS Vaccination Programme to work through the priority cohorts of people aged over 75, people in care homes and our frontline health and care staff
“We will continue to work with the NHS locally to understand how we target other priority groups in coming weeks and months.”
Melanie Brooks, Corporate Director for Adult Social Care and Health at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The vaccination programme in Nottinghamshire must follow the guidance set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which in phase one should be the prevention of death and continuation of health and social care services.
“As the risk of death from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is based on age in this first phase.
“At this point in time, our focus is therefore to vaccinate those front line staff who are working with the most clinically vulnerable groups.”