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Vaccinate, Vaccinate, Vaccinate!

By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

After a grueling 11 months in a pandemic-shaken world, vaccines are finally here – quite literally, in Harvard’s case. Housed within our very gates sit shipments packed with vaccine doses, many of which have already been granted to Harvard affiliates made eligible for vaccination under Phase One of Massachusetts’ distribution plan. Once the University replenishes its load, Phase Two vaccinations will also be distributed to eligible and itching recipients.

Up until this point, we’ve all (hopefully) done our part to mitigate the spread of the virus. We’ve worn masks and religiously sanitized our hands, embraced new concepts like “social distancing” and “shelter-in-place,” and reconfigured how milestones like birthdays and graduations are commemorated, all in the name of public health.

Now, we have one more responsibility: getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to each of us.

The urgency of this duty should be intuitive. Covid-19 has infected more than 26 million people and killed more than 450 thousand in the United States alone. It has taken a disproportionately scathing toll upon the elderly and devastated communities of color. And it has exacerbated pre-existing inequities, shaking vulnerable populations across the country and the world. Inevitably, fighting this virulent outspread means that we need to get vaccinated – as many of us as possible, as quickly as possible.

As Harvard affiliates, our access to healthcare is greatly improved – for proof, we need not look further than the same-day Covid-19 testing that has been guaranteed to all on-campus residents since August while nationwide testing shortages persist. Now, Harvard is also armed with the tools required to immunize us, and it will soon be able to wield them once Massachusetts greenlights vaccines for the general public. This elevates us to a position of extreme privilege – one which comes with equally tremendous levels of responsibility. It is requisite that, from this privileged place, we think hard about our neighbors, vigilantly work to safeguard our friends, and firmly protect the surrounding metropolitan. Ultimately, there is no better time to interrogate our role in the fight against Covid-19, and to staunchly hold ourselves to account.

Just as we have a responsibility to receive the vaccine, Harvard has a responsibility to create conditions conducive to its widespread use. Vaccine hesitancy is partly an equity issue – one that disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. Distrust in these communities of medical professionals is deep-seated and profound, rooted in a painful history of deadly mistreatment that cannot be erased. Vaccine misinformation also plays a large role in why so many vaccine doses have gone untaken by eligible Americans. To do its share to promote vaccination, Harvard, ever-influential and a research authority, should actively work to quash repeatedly-debunked vaccine myths and animate itself around the hard task of quelling medical mistrust in vulnerable communities.

Beyond that, if Harvard decides to make students’ return to campus next fall contingent upon vaccine retrieval, it is essential that the supply be made free and easily accessible to all members of the community. This will be a rocky, difficult endeavor – not least because affiliates are currently spread out across the nation and globe. Aggravating this challenge, too, is growing trepidation about the lack of vaccine access lower income countries face after richer nations snagged vaccine stock. Given the complexity of the moment, we do not expect there to be any “perfect” vaccination plan, and unfortunately, it seems Covid’s exacerbation of inequality will deeply impact who is protected from it first. But we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. So long as the University is committed to vaccinating as many affiliates as possible, the community and the world will benefit.

The longer this pandemic goes on, the more all of us will hurt — not only from the virus’s physical toll but also from the pressure of enormous social strain and burgeoning economic stress. If we ever want life to return to normal, whatever that may look like in a virus-scarred world, we must commit to this final push. There is no winning without the vaccine.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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