University of Iowa faculty, teaching assistants eligible for COVID-19 booster shots

Faculty and teaching assistants are eligible for the COVID-19 booster shot via the new Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which state that those working in an “increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission can get the shot.”


Ayrton Breckenridge

University of Iowa graduate student Hadley Galbraith poses for a portrait at the Scott Boulevard UI Urgent Care on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. Galbraith plans to get the covid booster shot later this year.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

Faculty and teaching assistants at the University of Iowa are eligible to receive the COVID-19 booster shots with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that identify education staff as a “high risk” occupation.

CDC COVID-19 booster shot eligibility guidelines were updated on Sept. 24, highlighting that those who work in occupations with “increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission” may receive the booster. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky expanded the recommendation of a CDC panel on Sept. 24 to include high-risk occupations in those eligible for boosters, in addition to the panel’s recommendation of people over age 65 and people with underlying conditions that make them susceptible to severe disease from COVID-19.

Hadley Galbraith, president of the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, said she is eligible for the COVID-19 booster shots because she is also a teaching assistant.

“I got a message from my division, the Division of World Languages, on Sept. 29 letting us know that there have been changes to the CDC, and we could try to get signed up through the university employee health clinic,” Galbraith said. “Or if we received our first doses somewhere else, we can also check there because it might be actually faster at a different provider.”

IowaNow also sent an email to the UI community on Sept. 30 that said “COVID-19 booster available if you received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” which links to the UI Student Health website. On the UI Hospitals and Clinics website, there is a page specifically listing the eligibility criteria for the booster shots.

Galbraith said that she found it interesting that faculty were not directly named to be eligible in the email.

“I suppose [the UI doesn’t] want to be responsible for making a blanket statement and then having certain cases not be eligible,” Galbraith said. “You would think that they could say more directly, many of you who are teaching in person, are eligible.”

The wait for appointments have stretched as long as to the end of October, so Galbraith encouraged people to sign up soon.

“I would encourage COGS members to get the booster shot, especially because we’re teaching in person, and we’ve had delta circulating. This is a measure of protection that we can give ourselves,” Galbraith said.

Caleb Klipowicz, a fifth-year UI graduate student, member of COGS, and a TA in the anthropology department, said he was able to get signed up for his COVID-19 booster shot this semester.

RELATED: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics employees receive COVID-19 booster shots

“I signed up right away to see if I would actually qualify. I wasn’t certain how the process would work, but currently, I’m signed up to get my third dose of Pfizer at the end of the month,” Klipowicz said.

Klipowicz said he realized that the CDC guidelines included educators and started spreading the word to his other COGS members. He said he thinks it’s important for as many people as possible to receive the booster.

“The latest booster numbers suggest it bumps up effectiveness a few percentage points from the low 80s to 90s ,so it’s that much more protection for folks, and that’s what’s important,” Klipowicz said.

While the booster availability is a great thing, it doesn’t go far enough in protecting faculty and TAs, Klipowicz said.

“We’ve been pushing for all kinds of other safety precautions and policies the university could adopt any day, even without the Board of Regents approval, that would make all of us safer,” Klipowicz said. “This is one thing that comes from outside of the university. They didn’t have any say on it. It’s just luck that it helps keep us a little bit safer.”

UI Faculty Senate President Teresa Marshall said she was originally unaware that the new CDC guidelines applied to educators.

“I hadn’t even looked at it, or thought about it, because I’m over in health care, and so I had heard that we would be getting [the booster] because we’re health care,” Marshall said. “I’m in the College of Dentistry, and we have information [about the boosters] sent to us by one of our clinical deans.”

Marshall said she thinks the UI is on track for where it should be regarding the COVID-19 boosters.

“The university was certainly prepared to provide the booster when it was approved, which I think is great,” she said.