** UPDATE: The headline of this article and our Facebook page has been changed to reflect that Virginia Western Community College did not tell the student she needed to get the vaccine or drop out. She was told it is the policy of a local long-term nursing facility that students cannot do their clinicals there without having the vaccine.**
Brittany Underwood is an expecting mom and part-time nursing student at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke.
She received an email from her professor just 24 hours before her ‘clinical’ or ‘hands-on learning’ in the field were set to begin.
The email said the clinical site told the college they would be making no exceptions. Students must have the vaccine to participate. They also would no longer allow exceptions for pregnant or breast-feeding students.
“I feel very stuck but I don’t know what to do,” Underwood said.
She said she doesn’t want to get the vaccine and feels they are making it seem like it’s her only option to continue in the nursing program.
Underwood said she is not comfortable getting the vaccine because she feels the long-term side effects in pregnancy and breastfeeding have not been studied long enough. The CDC said the vaccine is unlikely to pose a risk but notes there is limited data on the safety of vaccines in pregnant people.
Underwood sent a handful of emails to her professors explaining this. She asked if she could be tested weekly, or do clinicals at another location.
The college says they only had a partnership with this location for the first clinical for this program. They said they have to follow the rules they have in place.
The college notes this is the only facility in the region allowing Practical Nursing students at this time. However, they said they do require COVID-19 vaccine administration.
Her professor told her that she might find it best to leave the program and re-enter when life settles down.
“You have enough to keep you occupied anyway for now with your new little one,” said the professor.
Underwood said it’s a part-time program and she just does the program while being a stay-at-home mom.
“I fought so hard to be where I am today and now I can’t even take courses next semester so I guess I’m out,” she said.
Virginia Western Community College said they do not have a policy for requiring students or faculty to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
They note that students in health professions are subject to the requirements of those businesses and facilities.
Officials said they strive to work with students who do not choose to be vaccinated to find reasonable accommodation or to delay their studies until such time a facility requirement does not preclude their attendance.