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Harvard Students Rush To Secure Vaccine Appointments in Time to Receive Second Dose Before Leaving Campus

The state-run vaccination site at Hynes Convention Center in Boston can administer up to 7,000 shots per day.
The state-run vaccination site at Hynes Convention Center in Boston can administer up to 7,000 shots per day. By Truong L. Nguyen

Having scoured the internet for ways to pre-register for the Covid-19 vaccine since the beginning of April, Chloe E. Gambol ’24 said she felt “so giddy” when she finally found a slot.

“Excitement. Relief. Such intense relief,” she recounted.

Gambol said she worried about putting her family in danger by returning from school unvaccinated and knew she had to get the vaccine this week to receive the second dose before going home. She received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday and will receive her second dose on May 12, three days before she leaves campus.

Harvard students were among the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents to receive the Covid-19 vaccine this week when eligibility opened to all those 16 years and older on Monday. With spots filling up quickly, students reported discovering open appointments in a number of ways: Twitter bot accounts tweeting newly available appointments, emails from proctors, and friends of friends.

And for students leaving campus in May, getting a vaccine this week is a matter of urgency. The Pfizer vaccine requires three weeks between doses; the Moderna vaccine requires four. Receiving the first dose of either vaccine later than this week means the second dose would be scheduled after May 16, the day the College is closing dorms for the semester.

Genesis G. Nam ’24 booked her first dose appointment for this coming Saturday at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. Nam, who pre-registered just last week, said she feared she was too late until her teaching fellow directed her to schedule a vaccine appointment through Color, the portal through which students view their Covid-19 test results.

Still awaiting her first dose, Nam has already considered the timing of her second dose. Receiving the Pfizer vaccine would allow her to squeeze in the second dose before she leaves campus and returns home to Los Angeles, Nam said. But the four-week timeline of the Moderna vaccine would require her to look into options in California.

Another source of stress for Nam is the possibility of vaccine side effects during a generally busy time for students as final exams near.

“I don’t know how I’m going to react to the vaccine,” she said. “If I do get the second dose, I do have a final that week, which I’m also worried about, so it’s definitely something I have to plan out and really think about."

Nam said she hopes professors will grant students flexibility given the importance of getting vaccinated. Due to the complication of rescheduling finals, though, she said she would likely “just take the test sick” if she does experience side effects, which are more common for the Pfizer second dose.

Since midnight on Sunday, Estela Lacombe Franca ’23 said she monitored @vaccinetime, a Twitter bot notifying Massachusetts residents of available vaccine appointments.

Lacombe Franca said she originally scored an appointment for this coming Monday — but fearing she would leave campus prior to receiving both doses, she moved up her appointment by five days, receiving the first shot on Wednesday in Methuen. Lacombe Franca received the Moderna vaccine, meaning her second dose appointment falls in the middle of her first week of work and three days before she is set to move to New York.

“It turns out that I would either get it in the middle of finals or the first week of work, and it’s the first week of work,” she said.

People line up for Covid-19 vaccinations outside Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Tuesday.
People line up for Covid-19 vaccinations outside Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Tuesday. By Truong L. Nguyen

Despite experiencing fatigue and body pains, Lacombe Franca said the vaccine was well worth it, and that she will “deal with” the prospect of moving with a sore arm when that time comes.

“Whenever people talked about getting vaccinated, I’d be like, ‘God, I can't wait for my turn,’” she said. “So I’ve been waiting for this for a while, and it was very exciting. I will take any side effects.”

Lacombe Franca added that her courses have been “very reasonable and accommodating” with her taking time off to recover from the side effects.

“My TF — I had to miss his section — was just so excited for me,” she said.

In search of a vaccine appointment, Jessica L. “Jessie” Bates ’24 scanned through vaccination site websites and pre-registered through the state website, but found nothing. Her blockmate finally found appointments through the @vaccinetime Twitter bot account, and her friend’s sister ultimately found her an even closer appointment. On Tuesday, Bates received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Ultimately, what mattered, she said, was who you know and where you are looking.

“A lot of it is word-of-mouth,” Bates said. “I’ve tried to look for vaccines online, and it’s just convoluted, confusing to work your way through the resources. Random sites will have spots open up, so it’s not like you’ll just happen upon them — something had to tell you.”

Gambol had a similar experience, searching through the state website and vaccine provider websites like CVS for possible pre-registrations before finally hearing about open slots at Hynes Convention Center from an email her proctor sent to her entryway.

Gambol noted that one reason why it is important to her she get vaccinated is that her family has stayed very cautious throughout the pandemic. Gambol said she was concerned about bringing the virus home, especially because her grandma is at risk.

“I’ve got family that I really want to see when I get home, but I didn’t want to put them in danger,” Gambol said. “My grandma is sick, and I really want to try and protect her.”

—Staff writer Claire H. Guo can be reached at claire.guo@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @clairehguo.

—Staff writer Christine Mui can be reached at christine.mui@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MuiChristine.

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