Big decisions are never easy, by definition, and we do not envy Gov. Mills’ and Dr. Nirav Shah’s positions in this pandemic.

That said, the decision to provide the COVID vaccine based strictly on age, and not immediately begin to vaccinate all teachers and child care workers in Phase 1B, regardless of age, is simply jaw-dropping. It might seem logical, but this plan ignores the commitments our teachers have made – similar to that of doctors and nurses – and the intense psychological, financial and emotional stress on children of all ages and their families during this time.

There reportedly have been more suicides and suicidal ideation in young people this year, and that is likely because they have run out of hope. Taking the vaccine option away, and likely any chance to return to full school this year, intensifies these risks. Our students need to be in school full time, and our teachers deserve to be safe, and feel safe, doing so.

I think all grandparents would agree that safeguarding their own health while concurrently getting their grandchildren to school should be a priority.

Thirty-four other states have prioritized teachers.

We can’t call teachers essential and hang signs outside of schools saying “heroes work here” and then let them languish unvaccinated, with our kids sitting alone in their bedrooms.

It’s not too late to change this course, get vaccines in teachers’ arms and students into classrooms.

We are parents of two boys in elementary school in Portland and have seen the incredibly adverse health effects of keeping children out of full-time school.

Emily Chaleff and Stanley Chaleff, M.D.

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