OTTAWA -- Ontario is offering vaccine eligibility to early childhood educators and staff of licensed daycare centres starting Thursday and the expansion is being applauded as many daycares have remained an essential service for families throughout the pandemic.

Amanda Sinclair and her husband Kyle, have two children. Five-year-old Cooper is in Kindergarten, from home, and two-year-old Owen, attends daycare.

“I do work from home which is fortunate but you can’t work with a two-year-old in the house,” says Amanda. “My husband works out of the home he owns a construction company so he does need to leave the home but he does take the precautions.”

The family will now have an extra layer of protection. 

In Ontario, as of Thursday, child-care workers in licensed settings will be eligible to book an appointment for a shot using the provincial call centre at 1-833-943-3900.

Eligible workers will receive a letter from their employer and the letter must be available at the point of booking and brought to the vaccination appointment, officials said.

Twenty-fou-year-old Jasmine Cape, an ECE with the Kanata Academy Preschool, is thrilled with the governments Tuesday announcement and says it’s more than just protection.

“It means being validated for the work that we’re doing and for being on the front line,” says Cape. “It’s so beneficial for those children and those families and a huge piece of mind that being vaccinated  that we are that close-contact for them ... there’s that fear that when you walk in the classroom immediately you think am I bringing something into the classroom or am i and am I bringing something home to my loved ones.”

The province added that in the coming weeks eligibility may be expanded to those working in unlicensed child-care settings. 

The Association of Early Childhood Educators for Ontario, which has been lobbying government since February, pushing for some 57, 000 ECE’S across the province to get vaccinated, applauds the decision. But executive coordinator Alana Powell, says unlicensed daycare workers are at the same amount of risk when caring for children.

“Our calls have included everyone working in providing childcare to Ontario’s children and families,” says Powell. “I think the province has some logistical challenges in terms of including unlicensed home childcare providers who aren’t associated with a licensed agency, who don’t have an employer or who don’t have a direct relationship with the Ministry of education but again proper planning done ahead of time could have ensured that they were included at this stage of the roll-out.”

Education workers who provide daily support to students with special needs became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in mid-April. All education workers who live or work in high-risk neighbourhoods are also eligible for the shot.

While schools have been closed as a result of Ontario’s third wave, child-care facilities have remained open and for Sinclair, having their daycare provider vaccinated,  means an essential member of bubble is a little more safe.

“It’s really nice to know that we’re sending our child somewhere safe and that our provider will be safe.”

With files from Katherine DeClerq.