Lorena Grajales, Editor-in-Chief –
After holiday celebrations boosted social gatherings and traveling, Hamilton County’s Covid-19 total cases spiked to over 35 thousand and counting, which ignited a high demand for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines locally.
The Hamilton County Health Department administered thousands of vaccines to those 75 years of age or older and to those included in phases 1a1 and 1a2 (healthcare workers with direct public and patient exposure) of the vaccination plan.
The Tennessee Department of Health said educators working directly in K-12 schools are now included in phase 1b, to be presented with the vaccine. Since the update, UTC met with Hamilton County Schools to provide residency teacher candidates with a plan of action.
Although thousands of Hamilton County residents already received the first dose of the vaccine, several others are left in an uncertain waiting game.
UTC’s Clinical Experience Coordinator Christopher Brown stated that although an official date of the vaccine’s availability has yet to be determined, it seemed “promising” that those students who worked in clinical practices with K-12 students should be prepared to make their decision in the weeks to follow.
According to Brown, those who worked with medically fragile students could be eligible for the vaccine already.
In an email sent to all UTC students engaged in childhood education, Brown made clear the absence of a vaccination mandate as of now but encouraged interns and staff to remain cautious as cases increased dramatically in local Chattanooga.
“My hope is that with more vaccines on the horizon, there is an end in sight, but it will take all of us doing our part in following CDC guidelines and protocols,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, you are currently not required to take it. Each of you will have to weigh the choice and the risks associated with taking the vaccine or not.”
Autumn Fields, a UTC senior from Dyersburg, Tennessee said she plans on getting vaccinated to avoid placing anyone at risk while working with kindergartners at Brown Academy, as a student teacher.
According to Fields, getting vaccinated would allow her to feel safer on campus and although the Covid-19 vaccine is not being mandated at her internship, it is still considered essential for the overall health in the community.
“It’s to protect us, the families, other faculty, kids…it’s just a precautionary measure,” she said. “But the thing is, if you can get a vaccine and…help it [Covid-19 from] getting to other at-risk families, you could help save a life…”
In a recent immunization update, the UT Board of Trustees stated that the university is authorized to require a Covid-19 vaccine, if recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to chapter 1720-01-17-.03 of the rules of the University of Tennessee, students’ involvement of on-campus events may be affected if the vaccine is refused, effective through Feb. 29, 2021.
“Any student who does not provide proof of COVID-19 and/or Flu immunization in accordance with the timeframe established by the University and after notification of the requirement shall be permitted to continue to be enrolled in classes that are available for remote learning, but shall not be permitted to participate in on-campus classes or activities.”
To read immunization rules and updates for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, click here.