opinion

"Teachers are crying out to be vaccinated." The essential workers getting left behind.

Lockdown has come suddenly for my family. 

In the ACT, we’ve been privileged to avoid any COVID cases for a very long time. As the Sydney cluster began to build, there were rumours whipping around Canberra, suggesting ‘it’ had arrived and to make preparations.

Like any good country town, this went on for a few weeks prior to any real-life lockdown. But when the first case was announced, Canberrans were brought to a stand-still, locked down, stood down and much like the rest of Australia, left to sort the rest out for ourselves.

Except for those ‘essential workers’. For essential workers, the world started spinning at a greater rate.

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Our workload doubled, we scrambled to assemble everything we needed and get back to working in a virtual world. 

The difference was that this time, we were living in a world where the strain we were dealing with was significantly stronger but where a vaccine was available. 

This is where my problems began. 

I am a primary school teacher, I am a mother of a child with asthma and anaphylaxis, and I am the daughter of a man with an autoimmune condition. 

However, none of these reasons are ‘priority’ enough to get the vaccine because I’m 31 years old. 

I have a booking for my first dose - in mid-September - a month after the ACT’s lockdown was announced. 

This will mean that I am in the community for four weeks, with the Delta strain rampant, and I have no option not to be. 

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I have called three further times, trying to get a cancellation booking but have been told I’m not a high enough priority every time.

Don’t worry about the fact that my three-year-old son had an anaphylactic reaction just last week, so has a weakened immune response currently and suffers asthma as a post allergy reaction; again, not a priority.

I even booked an appointment through an online portal, only to be called and again told, not a priority.

On top of this, should my husband have the opportunity to go back to his job, I would now have to take Carer's Leave to look after our children, as our care providers are grandparents, my father included, who has an autoimmune condition. 

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I cannot risk having exposed my children to the Delta strain then passing that onto my dad. 

I find it incredibly hard to believe that with the current influx of cases in NSW and as a result the ACT, that essential workers, irrelevant of their role, should not be a priority for the vaccination. 

Teachers are crying out to be vaccinated in Canberra and cannot get bookings until September or October earliest, as they don’t fit into the age category. 

But it’s okay for these same people to go into a school with other unvaccinated adults and support students from vulnerable homes. How can that possibly make sense?

The federal government this week announced that bookings for the Pfizer vaccine would be open to 16-29 year olds. 

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr swiftly responded to this by stating that the ACT government had been blindsided by this announcement and said that “...it is unclear if the Commonwealth will be providing additional supply of Pfizer to enable the appointments to be made."

This instills minimal hope in our society. How do we build a communal sense of strength and hope when it’s clear that the National Cabinet are not working together?

Why are anti-vaccination demonstrations getting media time when local communities and regional hubs are crying out for more vaccinations?

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Why should I feel unsafe to leave my house, to provide my essential service, when a vaccination could relieve all my worries at present - yet I can’t get it?

I love my job; I adore the community I belong to and the children whose lives I help to shape. However, I do not think it is right or fair that I should have to question the safety of my family to attend my job.

I know I am not the only one in this situation and there are many others who are in significantly worse settings than myself. But that still doesn't make it fair that I have to attend my job and risk my family’s safety until I can get a vaccination. 

Up until now, I’ve felt like I’ve done everything possible to keep my two boys safe and protected. 

Now, it’s out of my control - and that sucks. 

Rachel Kennedy is a primary school teacher, boy-Mum and allergy-Mum who occasionally finds time to complete her one hour of exercise. Often after she finishes her block of chocolate.

Feature Image: Getty.

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