B.C. post-secondary educators demand vaccine priority

“You don’t stop being concerned about your kids when they go to post-secondary.” K-12 teachers in B.C. are being prioritized to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, but post-secondary educators say they’re being left out. Ashley Burr explains.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Teachers in B.C. elementary and secondary schools are being prioritized to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, but post-secondary educators say they’re being left out.

Taryn Thomson is President of the Vancouver Community College Faculty Association. She says she’s been overwhelmed with calls from members who are concerned that post-secondary teachers are not getting vaccinated early along with the K-12 teachers.

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The college is one of 17 post-secondary institutions in B.C. that have staff raising concerns as to whether they will be fully vaccinated by fall, when B.C. post-secondary schools are planning to welcome students back to campuses.

Thomson says because the staff at post-secondary teach adults, it puts them more at risk since adults are more likely to contract COVID-19 than children.

“People are concerned about not only if things slow down, we are hearing about possible shortages but for the younger faculty if they are not immunized by the time September rolls or even august it’s going to be late,” she says.

Michael Conlon is Executive Director of the BCIT Faculty & Staff Association and he says staff at the school were surprised and aback by the province’s decision to “to return to business as usual” in September.

Conlon echoes Thomson’s concerns, particularly with BCIT being trades and technical focused, meaning a return to class will likely require students and staff to work hands-on in close proximity.

“Right now we are not sure if everyone will have two doses, we don’t know what percentage of the student body will be vaccinated by that time,” he says.

In response to concerns from staff associations across B.C. health minister Adrian Dix reiterated the current vaccination rollout plans Wednesday and did not suggest any changes would be made to prioritize staff at post-secondary institutions.

“I’m encouraged people are enthusiastic to be vaccinated and I want to encourage them to register. We are going to work our way through groups of vulnerable workers. We are going to work our way through communities. We are going to do everything we can to slow transmission.”

However, Dix’s response leaves many post-secondary educators feeling like they’re being forgotten.

“Once people get to post-secondary these are still our children and the safety of everyone should be of concern,” Thomson says.

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