When will I get the vaccine?

We+must+ask+ourselves+if+we%2C+students+attending+a+private+college%2C+should+complain+about+not+getting+this+vaccine+fast+enough+without+considering+essential+workers.

Photo: Lucia Thorne

We must ask ourselves if we, students attending a private college, should complain about not getting this vaccine fast enough without considering essential workers.

By Shannon Garrido, Deputy Opinion Editor

Amid seven new variants of the already malicious novel coronavirus reaching the United States, my fellow Emerson students and I wonder: when will we get the vaccine? 

Emerson students have received email after email regarding COVID-19 vaccine updates, all with a similar message: we don’t know. At the time of publication, Emerson has yet to release a detailed plan for when students could be vaccinated through the college.

All we do know right now is this: Tufts Medical Center has included the Emerson community in its vaccination clinic planning and students are expected to become eligible for the vaccine when phase three of vaccination begins—on April 19. 

It’s understandably frustrating that the Emerson administration has provided very little information to students about their vaccination. Students are feeling burnt out and desperately crave a sense of normalcy after a hellish year. However, we must ask ourselves if we, students attending a private college, should complain about not getting this vaccine fast enough without considering essential workers who should have gotten it much earlier. 

Massachusetts had a slow beginning in vaccine distribution. Despite receiving the 12th most vaccine doses per capita, in February The Boston Globe reported the COVID-19 vaccine launch across the state suffered due to “supply shortages, unused doses, and vexing technical complexity.” On Tuesday, the Globe reported that several other states have already started vaccinating the general public, while more than three million Massachusetts residents are still waiting their turn. Through all this, essential workers have been slowly pushed to the back of the line.  

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Massachusetts initially prioritized essential workers and first responders in the second phase of its vaccination plan. But in late January, Governor Charlie Baker moved residents 65 and older, a group of more than half a million people, to the front of the queue. 

In keeping with a new Biden administration directive to inoculate all educators with their first dose by the end of March, the state has opened up eligibility to teachers, child-care workers, and other school staff.

Meanwhile, the decision to move up teachers has kept other essential workers, including MBTA staff, restaurant workers, and grocery store employees cast aside. According to WCVB, the move will make about 400,000 educators newly eligible, while Gov Baker said it will “mean we’ll be back to having about a million people who are eligible to receive a vaccine.” 

This has led the state’s education commissioner to want the authority to force Massachusetts schools to open in April, which could potentially be dangerous for essential workers, taking into consideration that they haven’t gotten vaccinated. Young adults are more likely to contract and spread the disease, according to the Wall Street Journal

Although essential workers are eligible to register on Monday, that doesn’t mean they will all be vaccinated by the end of April—especially considering the issues the registration site has been having. Earlier last month the state vaccination sign-up website crashed for more than two hours after its launch, and the 60,000 new appointments filled up almost instantly.

Not to mention this order of eligibility goes against the CDC recommendation that states should prioritize front-line essential workers for the vaccine. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13 to 1 to recommend millions of frontline essential workers, which include first responders, teachers, food and agriculture, manufacturing, U.S. Postal Service, public transit, and grocery store workers priority for the vaccines.

Police almost universally received earlier access to the vaccine in the first or second wave, while grocers were often given no priority access in numerous states, including Massachusetts. Not to mention that 30 percent of Massachusetts State Police have not received the vaccine even though the department has offered shots at its own clinics.

At the beginning of the pandemic, politicians praised essential workers for their services, claiming they would do all they could to protect them. Now, not only have they been pushed aside by their state to receive the vaccine, but suffer from tremendous economic vulnerability as well. In the state of Massachusetts alone, higher rates of COVID-19 communicate with greater percentages of workers in essential services, so it’s critical to prioritize essential workers to reduce the severity of this pandemic. 

Most of us want the vaccine, and we all want to feel this pandemic simmer down. As of right now, that is a dream that many in this country cannot afford. We must use this motivation and the resources available to us to pressure elected officials like Gov. Baker to consider them—and be patient in waiting for our share of the vaccine.

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