COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Advocacy groups in Ohio are pushing to make sure one industry is included in the governor’s finalized plan for the COVID-19 vaccine.

They’re the people that serve the youngest in our community: early learning childcare staff.

Childcare providers said they’re essential and likely to see community spread.

Two early learning centers said they hope they’ll be considered for the vaccine soon.

“So that we can stay open and keep the economy going with their families that are working every day,” said Char Stille with South Side Early Learning.

Stille said the pandemic has been stressful, with educators amping up safety in and out of the classroom.

“The teachers are being very careful about their own symptoms and own self-care to make sure if they have a sore throat, a fever, just feeling run down, that we’re making sure they have the time to stay home and take care of themselves,” Stille said.

Groups like Groundwork Ohio are rallying for the industry.

“Those individuals have continually provided high-quality care and enhanced children’s development throughout the pandemic,” said Julia Hohner with Groundwork Ohio.

The group has sent letters to Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

“Our letter specifically requested that early childhood educators and early childhood professionals are included at least at the same time as K-12 educators who have similar exposure and similar relationships with children and families,” Hohner said.

Gina Ginn with Columbus Early Learning Center wants her staff to have the option of the vaccine.

“It’s because we are more vulnerable to the community, so the fact that our kids and staff and our parents have to go into the community, there is much more likelihood of community spread making its way back into our buildings,” Ginn explained, adding social distancing is difficult with babies and toddlers.

“And with that, you know, they don’t sit at desks all day long,” Ginn said. “They’re still hands-on, they need that hands-on experiential learning with their teacher and so it’s a lot, it’s a lot closer of an environment than it is in the K- 12 spectrum.”

Ginn added they are essential for the economy.

“Families, our children, they rely on us to be here,” she said. “All of our parents work and they are considered essential workers just like our staff are considered essential workers, so we’ve been on the frontlines of this pandemic since the governor mandated closures.”

Hohner added, “We know the childcare industry is on the verge of collapse right now — within the next three months, up to a quarter of childcare providers, according to a recent national survey, could have to close their doors and part of those extra expenses is when those programs do have to close because of a positive case.”

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