By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Educators and senior members of the community came to Clayton Early Learning on Friday for a mobile vaccine clinic hosted by Denver Health in an effort to improve access for some of the people most affected by COVID-19. Prioritizing teachers and other school staff not only helps keep the classroom a safe place but also allows families to maintain their routine as much as they can during the pandemic, according to organizers.

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“I am so happy, I’m really glad that we’re getting the vaccine so we can get more back to normal,” said Debi Nelson, a professional development coach at Clayton. She received her first dose of the vaccine on Friday.

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“Kids need to have normal days and normal classrooms and at some point be able to see their teachers’ faces again.”

The clinic vaccinated 170 educators and another 30 people who were 65 and older. Clayton Early Learning is located in northeast Denver, made up of underserved communities of color with multigenerational families.

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“We’re trying to increase the equity of vaccinations by bringing them to the community,” said Mackenzie Holdershaw, a nursing program manager with Denver Health. “The freedom that you can see is extraordinary, there’s nothing like it.”

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Clayton serves 200 students on its campus with early Head Start or Head Start programming for children from birth to age 5. All of their students are at or below the poverty line. They also work with 300 children in home-based or community-based programs.

“It’s critically important to the health and safety of our educators as well as for the confidence of our parents who send their children to learn with us everyday,” said Becky Crowe, the president & CEO of Clayton Early Learning.

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Crowe said getting her staff in an early wave of the vaccine phases was an instrumental part of how they get back to “normal” for their families. Her staff agrees especially for children of a young age to see their teachers and learn language correctly.

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“Our child care workforce is on the front lines of not just taking care of children but enabling all of our families to get back to work and they’ve been such a critical part of the puzzle during the pandemic,” she said.

Shawn Chitnis