Faculty at Illinois colleges lobby for COVID-19 vaccinations before fall

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(The Center Square) – As Illinois K-12 teachers and staff line up for COVID-19 vaccinations as part of Phase 1B, higher education faculty continue to wait for their shot.

The heads of colleges and universities in the state have asked Governor J.B. Pritzker to move higher education faculty and staff into Phase 1B but to no avail. Under the current plan, most college instructors won’t be eligible to receive inoculations until Phase 1C.

A letter sent to the governor said without a strong signal that vaccinations will be available before the fall term, students are more likely to leave the state for college.

Eric Jome, director of media relations at Illinois State University in Normal, said the move would ensure a smooth opening for the fall semester.

“And help to ensure smoother openings in the fall and be a reassurance for students who are looking to make decisions about colleges in the fall,” Jome said.

Jome said a limited number of staff members have been vaccinated, but only if they qualify under the current plan.

Darcie Shinberger, executive director of university communications at Western Illinois University, released a statement.

“Universities are a part of the state’s population that can have a large impact in containing COVID-19 should faculty, staff and students get vaccinated. Vaccinating the members of a university community helps protect people both on and off-campus, and allows us to return to in-person learning and other activities that contribute to the economic health of the communities we serve.”

While most universities and colleges continue to wait their turn, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has started vaccinating select faculty. Earlier this month, the school invited instructors teaching at least one class this spring to sign up for the vaccine, causing some confusion at other schools where the faculty isn’t eligible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised states to include “those who work in the education sector(teachers)” in Phase 1B and advised that can include higher education workers. But it is up to the states to make the final decision.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has sent a petition to the governor and the Illinois Department of Public Health urging them to revise the rollout’s eligibility requirements. The petition was signed by over 3,000 people.

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