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Harvard, Roll Up Your Sleeves

By Steve S. Li
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

More than a year after being hastily forced to leave campus, our Editorial Board finally gets to opine on some promising news: Vaccines are coming, and they’re coming fast.

All people over the age of 16 who “live, work, or study” in Massachusetts will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine beginning on April 19, according to a plan unveiled by Massachusetts governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 last week. We won’t be the first to reach the milestone — several other states, including Georgia, Alaska, and West Virginia, have already opened up eligibility to their entire adult population. Yet the newly announced policy is a testament to Massachusetts’s efficient and targeted vaccination rollout: Massachusetts is now the state ranked second in the nation in terms of the percent of vaccines administered out of those delivered, and the early eligibility expansion date proves that we have managed to inoculate our most vulnerable populations first and fast.

The announcement is obviously welcome news for our community, offering a glimpse of the light at the end of a very long tunnel. However, it comes with some thorny questions.

On the University front, there’s the matter of distribution: How should we allot our doses, if and when Harvard receives them? Should Harvard have access to the vaccine before the end of April, we believe that it must first prioritize its employees who interface directly with students: dining hall workers, custodial staff, and more. While many of these employees are already eligible in the state of Massachusetts as frontline workers, it’s likely that some of them will not be able to access a vaccine by April 19, particularly because of the slow drip of vaccines assigned to our institution. While we’re eager to get vaccinated ourselves, these employees have made a semester on campus possible for many of us, facing uncertain working conditions and constant exposure to the virus. They deserve priority in any distribution system.

In the meantime, individual students shouldn’t wait around for Harvard to deliver the vaccine to their door. In fact, doing so might not even be an option: The timing of Massachusetts’s decision to open up vaccine eligibility makes it difficult to get a two-dose vaccine before mid-May, when many of us will be leaving Cambridge for the summer months. Most of the vaccines distributed nationwide to date have been the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which must be administered in two doses 28 and 21 days apart, respectively. This creates an incredibly small window of time for students to get their first dose if they want to guarantee easy access to a second dose in Massachusetts before their departure; one that will grow smaller and smaller each day after April 19.

Our peers should get the vaccine as quickly as they are allowed — even if that means having to navigate a sometimes clunky registration system. And once they’ve mastered the system, we hope that students will take the time to educate others on how to schedule appointments. Quickly vaccinating all members of our community is crucial, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach.

The process won’t be without complications: Students might struggle to get the vaccine on time, or at all, and Harvard itself will have to grapple with tough prioritization and implementation questions. Throughout it all, communication will prove crucial. We hope the University will provide clear, informative updates at every step of the process, regularly detailing their involvement (or lack thereof) in the vaccine distribution process. Similarly, Harvard should be proactive about setting up a system for Harvard students to report their vaccination status. Doing so will allow the University to actively monitor inoculation rates within and beyond our campus, and to strategize and react if student uptake lags behind our community.

Vaccine distribution might be stressful or confusing, even frustrating. But it’s also an extremely positive development: a vital step towards our return to normalcy. We can’t wait for all Harvard affiliates to get their shot.

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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