PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Gov. Dan McKee is hoping that, by the end of the month, all of the state’s K-12 educators will have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
But his new initiative does not include college professors, something Brown University graduate student Corinne Hutfilz says doesn’t make much sense.
“I think it’s kind of necessary to be advocating for in-person worker’s vaccinations,” she said.
Hutfilz believes the main reason they should be included is because not all professors have the option of working from home.
“It would be naïve to think that an undergraduate student represents a safer demographic than K-12,” she said.
McKee doubled down on his prioritization of K-12 teachers Tuesday, calling them “some of the most respected people in their communities.”
“Teachers are a priority because our students are one of our top priorities, if not our top priority in the state,” he said. “So, end of story there. That’s why people in the state of Rhode Island will fully understand what we’re doing here.”
For those living with underlying health conditions, like Westerly resident Steven Wreford, McKee’s new initiative is disappointing.
“[My] respiratory doctor tells me, ‘Your only choice is not to get that virus,'” Wreford, who has COPD, said.
Wreford said he understands why teachers should be eligible to receive the vaccine, but what he doesn’t understand, is why not all vulnerable populations are allowed to get their shot.
“You got this shot out there that would be very beneficial to a lot of us in my condition, and I just don’t understand why we can’t get it,” he said.
R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said Monday there are an estimated 70,000 adults between 60 and 64 in Rhode Island who aren’t already eligible for the vaccine, and 45,000 people with underlying conditions that will become eligible in mid-March.
The Health Department assumes 70% of those people will want to get the vaccine when it becomes available.
R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott says the state is on track to begin vaccinating those residents, adding that immunizing teachers will not put them behind schedule.