Some college buildings are vaccination sites, but most faculty, students aren’t eligible yet
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At the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Taylor Davis is eager to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“I definitely feel at risk and then I feel like my family is at risk,” said the 61-year-old who’s been teaching her sculpture and 3D design classes in-person throughout the pandemic.
Davis said college professors in Massachusetts should be able to get the shots once K-12 teachers are eligible.
“I am more concerned about what an 18-year-old is going to do in their social time than I am a fifth grader,” she said.
Massachusetts and some other states are enlisting colleges and universities as sites to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines to front-line workers and older residents. In many states, though, students, professors and staff are not on a priority list to receive the shots quite yet. That’s left some professors who are being asked to teach in person frustrated.
Inside an empty gym at Boston University, medical and essential workers waited in line at least 6 feet apart. They rolled up their sleeves and got the jab. But BU students, faculty and staff just returning to campus are low on the priority list for the shots in Massachusetts.
“I don’t think there’s an urgent need to necessarily immunize faculty and students,” said David Hamer, an infectious disease specialist who teaches at BU’s School of Public Health.
Despite research suggesting some colleges risk becoming superspreaders to neighboring communities, Hamer said testing and isolating infected students, faculty and staff at BU largely worked last semester. Still, he said, BU might have gotten lucky.
“If you think we dodged a bullet last time, now we have to dodge machine gun fire because we’re starting out in January with a large amount of virus circulating across the country,” he said.
And that’s why others who study public health are worried.
“A public health approach is you don’t go into the machine gunfire,” said epidemiologist Michael Siegel, who also teaches at BU’s School of Public Health.
Siegel said BU definitely got lucky last semester and wants the university to move all classes online. He pointed to the existing burden on local hospitals.
“Right on our own campus, the Boston Medical Center, the emergency staff, the nurses are pleading with us,” he said. “They’re telling us, ‘It’s a disaster in here. Please do not send us any more people.’ “
And Siegel said it’s the colleges’ responsibility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 until the vaccine is more widely available.
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