Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, all of humanity has been searching for a light at the end of the tunnel. That light, for many, arrives in the form of a vaccine. The state of Michigan has administered COVID-19 vaccines for the past six months; however, due to limited availability of vaccines, healthcare administrators released the vaccine in tiers according to age, occupation, and health status.
“Since December 2020, COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan became available for front line workers such as healthcare workers and first responders in congregate settings, and those aged 65 and older,” said professor of integrated physiology and health sciences, Hyun Kim. “Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and licensed child care workers were also vaccinated after these groups. The state of Michigan has been expanding vaccination eligibility for those aged 16 and older with disabilities or medical beginning March 22nd, and starting April 5th, everyone over 16 will become eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The public as well as the campus community have expressed mixed opinions on what groups of people deserve to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before others. Much controversy has arisen from the exclusion of college students from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before the general public, as they live in communal settings in which the virus spreads rapidly.
“Since last year, health inequity has been the topic in the area of public health,” said Kim. “One of the ethical principles of COVID-19 vaccine priority groups was to promote justice and to mitigate health inequities. Alma College is one of a few higher-educational institutions who has opened the campus for in-person learning while many others, especially large state universities, have not. I think the student population cannot be prioritized due to these reasons mentioned above unless they have high-risk underlying conditions or work at the healthcare settings. Again, I believe vaccine priorities should be given to those, no matter if they are students or faculty members, at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection.”
Another source of controversy arose when Alma College faculty members were offered the COVID-19 vaccine prior to students, even though many of these faculty members had opportunities to receive the vaccine at prior dates.
“The COVID-19 vaccine was provided first to the faculty of Alma College,” said Kim. “There were a fair number of faculty members with underlying health conditions who did not get vaccinated due to delays in vaccination scheduling in Michigan. I think this was why COVID-19 vaccine was offered prior to students.”
Although many felt that college students should have qualified for the COVID-19 vaccine at an earlier date, various different factors were considered in determining vaccine eligibility.
“Mortality and morbidity data of COVID-19 in the United States has shown that individuals aged 65 and older or with high-risk health conditions have been significantly affected by severe complications such as trouble breathing, heart problems, and additional bacterial infections,” said Kim. “Based on this evidence, I personally think the vaccine could have been offered to students at the same time to faculty, but to those with underlying conditions prior to everyone,
because we, as a campus community, have been working together diligently to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.”
At the end of the day, each vaccine administered in our campus community brings us one step closer to bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to a close.