College professors not prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Published by Peyton Manning on

Woman wearing mask that says welcome back to school
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College professors not prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

UCC professors recently discovered no vaccines are immediately coming to higher education staff. At this time, Gov. Brown’s Vaccine Sequencing Schedule doesn’t include higher education.

The Vaccine Sequencing Schedule is broken up into five groups with Group 1 getting vaccines first, moving through until Group 5, the last group listed on this schedule to be vaccinated before the general population. Group 1 is healthcare, childcare, and K-12 educators. Group 2 is long-term care, hospice, crisis-care, correctional settings, and people aged 80 and above. Group 3 is outpatient care, caregivers, people with disabilities or medical conditions, and age group 75 and above. Group 4 is other public health settings and people ages 70 and above. Group 5 is people aged 65 and older.

College and university teachers are disappointed with their lack of prioritization. Some find that this puts students and staff at an unfair disadvantage because of the lack of in-person learning compared to earlier education.

“I would have liked for community college teachers to be included in the group of K-12 teachers who are in line to get the vaccine,” said Humanities associate professor Jillanne Michell, PhD.

Because higher education was left off of these phases, the Oregon Community Colleges Association and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission voiced their concerns to the governor.

UCC President Debra Thatcher told campus staff in an email, “OCCA and HECC are advocating with the Office of the Governor to change that (delay in vaccination).”

Without a firm vaccination date, staff can’t plan re-opening schedules, and students and teachers are left in limbo regarding course delivery.

“It is crucial that our state work to include higher education in their vaccination rollout,” Amy Fair, associate professor in Humanities, said. “While I can continue to teach writing classes remotely without a problem, I think about the limited opportunities we have for hands-on learning in classes like sciences and the arts, and in programs like welding and forestry. Many students and instructors want (and need) to be in the classroom, but we all need the opportunity to be vaccinated for that to happen on a larger scale.”

Many teachers and staff also find the lack of vaccinations in the school systems to be unprecedented.

Gregg Smith, a Humanities associate professor, said, “Naturally, I’d wish that teachers were considered part of the essential workforce, whatever level they teach. While it’s understood that we can’t vaccinate everyone all at once, and that some level of prioritizing has to take place, I do believe that teachers should occupy one of the higher echelons of priority.”

UCC students can expect to continue online learning during the spring. However, Dr. Thatcher guarantees by the end of March students will know the style of classes for summer and fall terms.

“I don’t think it’s right to expect teachers to teach in classrooms without first giving them the opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Michell. “Teachers need to feel protected to do their jobs well.”

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