Students reevaluate vaccine plans following Tufts partnership dissolution


Hongyu Liu

A sign of the COVID testing site of Emerson College and Tufts University.

By Dana Gerber and Frankie Rowley

Students were forced to rethink how they would receive a COVID-19 vaccination after Emerson notified students last week that its previously announced vaccine partnership with Tufts Medical Center foundered due to supply constraints and timing issues. 

The partnership was announced in January, when Massachusetts was still in Phase One of its vaccine rollout, reserved for first responders, health care workers, and those in congregate care settings. Massachusetts is slated to move into Phase Three of the vaccine rollout, when the general public will be eligible to receive the vaccine on April 19—just 10 days before the end of the spring semester.

In light of the partnership falling through, Muurisepp encouraged students to sign up to receive a vaccine on their own before or after they leave campus. 

“Certainly we are aware that for some situations, students may have easier access to get it,” he said in an interview. “We also know others may not have as easy access. We are working on … a clinic for vaccination upon return. Hopefully, the supply chain will be rectified by then and it will be aplenty.”

Muurisepp added that Tufts Medical Center, which offers vaccines publicly to eligible individuals, may be able to offer students their shots in the Boston area over the summer. 

“We will certainly work with students, if they’re still around the Boston area, to help guide them through there once everyone is eligible on April 19,” he said. 

He also noted that students are welcome to ask for housing extensions if they are able to get the first shot of the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prior to leaving campus and need to stay in the state to receive the second dose.

Abby Griffith, a first-year theatre and performance major, said she understood the logistical difficulty of vaccinating students prior to the end of the semester.

“I’m from California, so I think I’ll be able to get one when I get back home, but I was … kind of counting on the school to be able to deal with that and not have to stress about finding an outside place to do it,” she said. “Everyone in Boston wants to get vaccinated, so it makes sense that we’re not able to.” 

Muurisepp said the college has not yet decided whether vaccination will be required upon students’ return in the fall. 

The state’s vaccine rollout has received waves of backlash, with appointment scheduling hurdles, halting distribution to hospitals to supply pharmacies and vaccination sites, and conflicts with essential workers over their eligibility. As of Wednesday, about 16 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, a metric on which Massachusetts is currently 15th in the country, according to The Boston Globe. 

Calvin Kertzman, a first-year visual and media arts student, said he’s more relieved that his immunocompromised mother is inoculated than focused on his own shot. While he said he was never expecting Emerson to be able to administer vaccines, the anticipation is now his main concern.

“I was just like, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’” he says of Emerson facilitating vaccinations. “Now that we’re going home, it’s going to be a free for all” 

Haley MacMillan, a junior visual and media arts student, got her first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday after becoming eligible because she teaches children figure skating and works in a retail store. She pre-registered through CVS last Friday, a day after Emerson announced its partnership with Tufts Medical Center had faltered. 

“I was super relieved that I was able to sign up and get it, because I know now a lot of students are trying to get it through CVS since that news came out,” MacMillan said. “I have to go all the way to Dorchester and it’s going to be a hike, and I am going to have to leave one of my classes early, so I was disappointed that Emerson just isn’t able to accommodate and give us vaccination times that were close to campus [that] would work with my class schedule.”