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University Leaders Want COVID Vaccine for Students & Staff

Rich Egger

The presidents of Illinois' public universities believe the state should make it a higher priority to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for higher education's faculty, staff, and students.

They make their case in a February 1 letter to Governor J.B Pritzker. You can read the document here. An association for private colleges and universities in the state has also signed on to the letter.

John Smith, Interim Vice President of Student Services & Director of the Beu Health Center at Western Illinois University, said K-through-12 teachers are included in the state’s current round of vaccinations. He said the letter suggests higher education should receive the same consideration.

"We are in pockets of the state population where we could have a large impact on the spread or the containment if we're taken care of," Smith said.

He said vaccinating students and staff would help develop herd immunity, which will help protect people on and off campus.

The letter said vaccinations would help the institutions return to in-person learning; reduce the risks of employees and students contracting COVID-19; and prevent further economic damage to the institutions and their host communities.

The campus leaders expressed worry that prospective students will consider attending universities in other states if Illinois does not make it a priority to vaccinate its students and employees.

In addition, the letter claimed on-campus vaccine distribution would not increase the burden on local health departments because college campuses generally have the infrastructure to handle mass vaccination clinics.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.