Dec 11, 2020 | NEWS | By Riley Prillwitz | Illustration by Xixi Qin

Will Colorado College offer vaccination distribution when the COVID-19 vaccine is released to the general public in the U.S.?

The conversation around a COVID-19 vaccine has been circulating since the country first went into lockdown in March. There have been many predictions, as well as a lot of debate around the potential vaccine, as citizens have grown weary and frustrated at being locked up in their homes for months on end.

However, since mid-October, the speculation as to a vaccine release date has become more of a reality as scientists recently announced that vaccination trials were in their final stages.

While multiple companies have been working to develop a vaccine for the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is focused on a specific trial that is in its third phase of testing. The CDC has stated that it is waiting on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval on a vaccination in order to move forward with mass distribution. Members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted 17-1 on Thursday to recommend an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. While the FDA does not have to follow this recommendation, as of this writing they are expected to do so.

“If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes or approves a COVID-19 vaccine, [the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] will quickly hold a public meeting to review all available data about that vaccine,” the CDC states on their website.

Per the FDA, “Currently, there is no FDA-approved or authorized vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19.” However, the FDA ensures that they “are committed to expediting the development of COVID-19 vaccines, but not at the expense of sound science and decision making.”

This past Tuesday, a 90-year-old British woman was the first person to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial, acting as the catalyst for mass distribution of the vaccine around the world.

The anticipation of a coming vaccine for the novel coronavirus raises questions for CC students. How will CC handle the situation? Will the college require students and staff to be vaccinated?

Currently, the school has a specific COVID safety plan in place. There are strict mask and social distancing mandates, as well as remote classes and weekly randomized testing.

The college’s acting Co-President, Robert Moore, is confident in the current safety measures taken by the college.

“I think that the college’s current COVID safety methods are working well. That conclusion is supported by comparing the positivity rates for students, faculty, and staff against the positivity rates in the county and the state,” he said.

Maggie Santos is the COVID-19 Emergency Manager for the college. She agrees with Co-President Moore, saying that “compared to the larger Colorado/Colorado Springs numbers, the Colorado College community has much fewer positive cases.”

A vaccine release would only improve the safety status of the school, as well as the country as a whole. A major question, then, is whether or not the school has the connections and resources to acquire and distribute the vaccine to its community.

Santos believes that the school will indeed pursue vaccine access when the time comes.

“We have a [Memorandum of Understanding] with the El Paso County Health Department to have a [Print on Demand] for vaccination distribution. When vaccinations come in, we are a designated location. We would have vaccinations for students, staff, faculty, and family members.”

Once the school has access to vaccinations for the community, the question remains whether or not people will be required to have a vaccination in order to access any part of campus.

Santos said that this is not necessary, especially when a vaccination becomes available. “The only question would be the CDC/ Health Department recommendations for people that do not want the vaccination,” Santos says. “That hasn’t been determined as of this date.”

In terms of adjustments to safety measures once vaccines are available, it seems to be too early to predict when they will change.

Dean Rochelle Dickey explains, “Our decisions will be guided by science and the advice of [the Scientific Advisory Group] and our partners at El Paso County Health Department.” Moore and Santos agree with her.

One can only hope that these changes will occur sooner rather than later. But from Santos’ perspective, there is really no way to tell. When asked, she stated, “I have no idea; it would depend on the availability and distribution schedule.”

While the CC community waits on the announcement of an available vaccination, cases continue to rise throughout the country as social distancing measures grow more and more lackadaisical. The anticipation for the incoming vaccine only grows. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of the long road 2020 has been.

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