Vaccines May Make It Harder To Find Good Affordable Daycare

What exactly do COVID-19 vaccines have to do with affordable daycare? It comes down to the fact that mandated vaccines for child care workers have decreased the number of people holding these positions thus making it harder for service providers to maintain previous commitment levels.  The effect has negatively affected daycare in a very severe manner.  In this article, we look at the relevant statistics and their effect on the cost and availability of child care services across the country.

Why Daycare Workers Require Vaccines

Vaccines for child care workers make scientific sense. Here’s why: young children under the age of 5 years will not be eligible for vaccines until at least 2022. Roughly 60 percent of these children spend a large portion of the average week in non-parent daycare settings which becomes a potential point of contact.  Preschool teachers and infant/toddler caregivers who work directly with these children put both at risk of contracting the virus. This is why daycare workers are required to be fully vaccinated. The idea is to prevent the spread of the virus to the homes of the children attending daycare. Sadly, many child care service providers have left the industry, not entirely because of the vaccine mandate, either. Low pay is a huge hurdle to overcome.  Although estimates put the number of pre-pandemic jobs currently filled at 90 percent, vaccine mandates combined with low wages may make finding affordable daycare a challenge in the coming year.

Vaccines Are Used To Protect The Workforce

A survey conducted between May 26 and June 23 revealed that almost 78 percent of the child care workforce had been vaccinated. The study, conducted by Yale University, also indicated that black child care providers, individuals with the lowest household incomes, and home-based child care providers all had lower vaccination rates compared to the entire workforce.  A few factors are responsible for this, according to the co-author of the report, Dr. Kavin Patel, an infectious disease fellow at Yale School of Medicine.  He says concerns related to vaccine safety, and how fast it was developed are the top reasons cited for not getting vaccinated. Access to the vaccine had little or no impact on the study results.  “The last year showed us that child care providers are the workforce that makes all other workforces possible,” Patel adds.

Walter Gilliam, a co-author of the report and a child psychiatry professor at Yale, states that although the vaccine is viewed by many as a form of protection for child care workers who are at risk during the pandemic simply by the nature of their work, not been much done in the past to help these workers. “If we really want to protect the workforce, we have to pay them better,” he says. Data shows that the already crumbling child care industry is shaking more, due to pay rates more than anything else. The information shows that four out of five child care services operated this past summer with less staff than required. The survey was conducted by NAEYC, a child care provider professional organization. The survey asked providers about the future of their service and close to 33% said they were either leaving the industry or closing their service. An additional 81 percent stated that pay was the main reason for this decision.

Vaccines Present A Hurdle For Staffing

A report conducted by the US Treasury Department in September states that child care workers are in the second percentile of all occupations based on wage-earning. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says, “The free market works well in many different sectors, but childcare is not one of them. It does not work for the caregivers, it does not work for the parents. It does not work for the kids.” She adds, “Child care is a textbook example of a broken market.” As for vaccines, more job postings across the industry include vaccination as a requirement, automatically reducing the pool of potential candidates. As one child care service provider stated, “I’m having trouble finding people who are qualified at all and then trying to find someone who is vaccinated.”

States Are Slow To Implement Guidelines

Mandates are in place, but not in all states. For example, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, and the District of Columbia all have some level of vaccination requirement for child care workers at licensed facilities. California has “something in the pipeline” but that’s it.  Mandates in other industries such as the US military, health care workers, and other groups have effectively increased the vaccination rates in these sectors. It is interesting to note that the majority of workers facing vaccination mandates will comply rather than lose their job. However, the sectors where vaccination mandates have been successful contain high-paying jobs that would be difficult to replace if workers chose to be let go for non-compliance.

Final Thoughts

Talk at the federal level supports an increase in the hourly rate for child care workers. The Biden administration is looking at a minimum of $15 an hour at this point. The plan would be to do the same with kindergarten teachers and other teachers with the same qualifications. The government feels that the best way to solidify the failing child care system is to put more money into it by offering a better wage for workers. At the moment, that could be about $450 billion of funding. While that sounds like an incredible injection of support, it is unlikely that the full amount will get through Congressional negotiations. However, any additional funding for child care in the country will be a good thing even though it means that if you are seeking child care service for your child, it may not be as affordable as it once was. This is assuming the service provider you choose has enough staff to keep up with demand.

As you can see, this is a difficult situation that needs continued monitoring.

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.

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