On Sept. 16, Tufts Health Service announced that all students, faculty and staff would be required to receive both the updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster and the annual influenza vaccine by Friday, Dec. 2. As our world oscillates between pandemic restrictions and relative normalcy, vaccine requirements remind people that coronavirus is still spreading and causing long-lasting harm; the only way to prevent more damage is to get vaccinated.
After already needing the two initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as well as one booster to be on campus this fall, another mandate means a prolongation of a pandemic that, to many, feels like old news. The healthy young adults who primarily populate Tufts are at less risk for dangerous reactions to a coronavirus infection, especially because many have already been infected at least once.
For those in this pragmatically self-centered mindset, going out of their way to get a vaccine to prevent what will essentially feel like a cold may seem like little more than a hassle. To combat this mindset, the Tufts Health Service’s responsibility is to provide adequate and ample access to vaccines for all community members. As one Sidechat user wrote, “I think it’s not fair if people have to outsource them … Tufts should make sure they can [provide] them to everybody.”
Tufts did offer an on-campus booster clinic along with the mandate, with a link to register. However, only three days after the first announcement, the community received a follow-up email stating that “the on-campus COVID-19 booster clinics currently listed [were] fully booked.”
I had scheduled my bivalent booster appointment at CVS in Davis Square before the mandate announcement was sent out. The nurse who administered the vaccine told me that the pharmacy had been canceling appointments all week because they had been running out of doses by the end of each day.
The added influx of Tufts students who may be re-routing their vaccine appointments from the on-campus clinics to local pharmacies will likely put an added strain on community resources. This could and should be avoided through more allocation of university resources toward maintaining vaccination sites open for new appointments.
Despite these (hopefully) temporary lapses in the Tufts bivalent booster roll-out, I think the most significant hurdle for getting the Tufts community vaccinated continues to be strict rationing of time. As we see when there are five GIMs at 9 p.m. on the same Tuesday, college is about learning to sort out your priorities. Even though they all sound interesting, you cannot be everywhere at once. I urge you to make this vaccine a priority.
Understandably, the Tufts community — as well as the global community — are getting dizzy from riding the pandemic roundabout of regulations, restrictions, mandates and guidelines. Adding another vaccine mandate prolongs the multi-year saga of what may feel like endless rules. But the vaccines we already have are only ensuring one layer of protection, and the bivalent booster is the only one uniquely suited to combat the latest strain of the omicron variant.
Ultimately, it comes down to setting aside a few minutes in our day to do the medical equivalent of jury duty — somewhat unpleasant but incredibly essential to the health of the community. I know walking to one of the four on-campus vaccination sites might take away time you could spend doing work or in line for Sundae Sunday at Dewick. But I urge you to consider the immunocompromised professor who wants to teach in person but would most likely get very sick from an omicron variant infection. Consider the girl in your hall who takes immunosuppressant drugs to treat her lymphoma. Consider everyone who will benefit from your two-minute inconvenience, and go get vaccinated.