All teachers deserve vaccines - including professors

Emily Brennan

Online Media Manager

Photo via Inside Higher Ed

Rhode Island has reached the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and the long awaited vaccines are rolling out in phases to those who need it. The eligibility list from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) includes all people aged 60 and older, healthcare workers and first responders, people with underlying conditions and K-12 teachers. Governor Dan Mckee plans on having all K-12 teachers vaccinated with at least one dose by the end of March but is not including college professors.


As a substitute teacher and community health worker for the Department of Human Services, I have received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This is my first step to working towards going back to a “normal” world, my normal - which includes attending my college classes in person. Rhode Island College is already planning for in-person learning this coming Fall. For this to happen, my professors should be vaccinated.


Not all professors get the option to teach from home. For example, at the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester Brown University was authorized to move to limited in-person learning with the Warren Alpert Medical School classes all in person. With colleges like Brown, RIC and Providence College, inner-city professors are highly at-risk for contracting COVID-19. Professors and teachers around the country are coming into contact with different students every day, as well as spending the duration of their class time inside.


Another issue with not vaccinating professors along with teachers is staffing. In college there just simply aren’t any “substitute professors.” Class is simply cancelled. What will we do then if a professor is severely ill and cannot teach us in person or remotely? In the U.S. alone it’s estimated that over 1.5 million teachers have health complications that can pose a risk for more serious illness. I cannot imagine how much higher the number would be if it included college professors.


College professors have worked tirelessly for the past year alongside public school teachers and they aren’t receiving the treatment they deserve. They have also spent hours working on modifying coursework to be taught remotely and are also essential workers in the Rhode Island community. For college students and staff to safely return to in-person learning on campuses, professors should be in line for vaccines as well. Our college education is essential.


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