Posted on: February 25, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Kauffman

By Jack Zampillo, Opinion Editor

This past week contained a landmark moment in my life–and in the life of this country. 

At just 20, I received my first dosage of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday. As someone who works in a high school, I was eligible to receive the shot under the 1B category, which pertains to frontline essential workers. It felt relieving to receive the vaccine, but odd at the same time. Why am I able to get a vaccine before my college professors are? 

I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Education workers in Illinois are eligible to receive the vaccine under the current distribution phase 1B. However, vaccinations are limited to teachers, principals and staff employed in K-12 institutions. Most higher education workers, such as our educators at Moraine Valley, are ineligible at this point. 

A landmark moment also happened for the country this week, as the United States passed the grim milestone of half a million deaths from COVID-19. Meanwhile, professors all over the state have been asked to return to campuses and put their own health on the line. And Illinois is not doing enough to protect them.

According to Inside Higher Ed’s website, 19 of 50 states are vaccinating higher education workers under phase 1B. The timeline for the remaining 31 states remains sporadic, with 14 of them unsure when these individuals will be eligible for the vaccine. Illinois’ current plan is to begin distribution under phase 2, scheduled to begin around summertime this year. But, considering the percentage of COVID cases by age groups, how can this be justified? 

It’s no secret that college students continue to gather in large numbers without much caution. Look on any social media platform and you’ll find countless pictures and videos of masses of people partying as they please. While I too miss socializing regularly, Illinois needs to recognize the risks that come with these actions.

Graphic by Linh Nguyen

Look at the number of college-aged students being diagnosed with COVID-19. According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control, people between the ages of 18-29 account for 22.4 percent of active cases, the highest percentage of all age classifications.

This statistic alone highlights the importance of higher education workers being vaccinated. With lives at risk, it is important we take care of the ones who dedicate their livelihood to educating the next generation.

Jason Howland, a biology professor at Moraine Valley, stated his thoughts for our news story on the situation.

“Should higher education be getting much more support from state and federal sources? Absolutely yes,” Howland said. Howland is a former professor of mine, and his passion for teaching shined brightly during every class I had with him. Teachers want to teach, but not at their own expense.

When the COVID-19 vaccine distribution began, the country’s top priority was to vaccinate frontline workers and those at the highest risk. With young adults representing the highest percentage of cases in the country, higher education workers are in danger, especially those who are older and may be at greater risk of complications from the disease.

The entire first semester of the school year at Moraine, as at many colleges, was completed online, as a precaution for students and faculty. But without vaccinations, there are still risks.

If Illinois professors are required to teach in person, they should at least feel safe in doing so. How can educators teach to the best of their ability when they aren’t comfortable with the setting they’re in?