OTTAWA -- Workers at licensed childcare centres in Ontario became eligible Thursday to book COVID-19 vaccinations.

But a large group of unlicensed, or independent at-home daycares still aren’t eligible. Some advocates say the provincial government has missed a major group of essential workers.

Madison Pritchard is more than capable and qualified to take care of and keep kids engaged. Her at-home daycare has all the amenities, there is circle-time, plenty of fun-filled activities and even during online-school learning.

The days are busy for the 29-year-old mother of three. She is a trained early childhood educator and has worked at licensed childcare centres.

“After having my own children I decided to open it up a daycare in my own home,” says Pritchard. “We’re basically educators, we’re teachers. We do everything we can to keep the kids happy.”

Pritchard’s daycare business, like all others across Ontario, was deemed essential but as an unlicensed, or independent childcare provider, she is not eligible for a vaccine.

“People have to work and people have to look after their kids and that’s where the issue is.” Says Pritchard.

In Ontario, as of Thursday, child-care workers in licensed settings are 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.

While the Ontario government said Tuesday that they would look into providing vaccination for all daycare workers in the coming weeks, their was no sign of progress when the expanded eligibility started Thursday.

Brenda Burns, president of Child Care Providers Resource Network, an Ottawa-based non-profit group which supports both licensed and independent daycare operators, says as many as 75 per cent of Ontario children age 12 and under do not receive care from from licensed centres.

The CCPRN has been lobbying the government for equality and has began a petition asking for change.

“There’s a large number of parents out there that probably don’t realize that their child care providers are not on the list at this moment to be eligible to receive a vaccine,” says Burns. “All children in Ontario deserve to be valued and protected and by vaccinating the adult who care for them at this point is the only way we have of protecting them.”

For Pritchard, she will continue to run her daycare and hopes that childcare can be looked at not just for centres, but as a job itself.