Mar 12, 2021 | NEWS | By Isaac Yee
Images of Colorado College students gleefully holding their CDC-issued vaccination cards have flooded social media sites including Snapchat and Instagram over the past week. A number of CC students received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of vulnerable population groups, even though Colorado is still only in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout.
According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout prioritizes at-risk citizens including frontline workers and the elderly. The phased system was adopted by the Department of Health and Environment “to be as fair and efficient with distribution as possible” and to “saves lives and end the crisis.”
While some students who work essential and frontline jobs received the vaccine under Colorado’s Phase 1 rollout, other students who were not part of the Phase 1 rollout also received the vaccine.
One CC student who wished to remain anonymous received their first shot of the Moderna vaccine on Friday at the Summit Medical Clinic on East Fillmore Street. They told The Catalyst they heard that the Summit Medical Clinic was giving out doses from a friend and went to check it out themselves.
They had originally thought they were receiving leftover doses but later realized that did not appear to be the case, as people from the general public were able to schedule vaccinations in advance.
When asked whether they had any regrets about receiving the vaccine ahead of vulnerable Coloradans, they said they had “no regrets” as the Summit Medical Clinic was the one that allowed students to receive the vaccine in the first place. They admitted they did not fall under any categories in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout.
Another student who received the vaccine on Friday at Summit Medical Clinic said he signed up to receive the vaccine the day before, but saw other students being administered the vaccine on social media. He rushed down to the clinic to try and get one without the clinic contacting him. He said all he had to do was fill out a form and wait 40 minutes before he was administered his first shot of the Moderna vaccine.
“I definitely got the vaccine earlier than I should have,” said the student, who also wished to remain anonymous. He said the clinic was packed with others who were looking to get the vaccine. He also admitted that he did not fall under any of the categories in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout.
Summit Medical Clinic did not respond to The Catalyst’s request for comment.
While many CC students have jumped at the opportunity to get vaccinated, many others have expressed ethical concerns about getting vaccinated ahead of vulnerable population groups.
Ray Fleming ’23, who worked as an EMT during the height of the pandemic in New York, told The Catalyst that healthy CC students should not be able to get the vaccine as it takes away from people that need it the most.
“This shows the same selfishness and lack of forethought that has led our country to perform so poorly in the pandemic,” Fleming said. Fleming chose not to get vaccinated last week, instead opting to wait his turn.
Another student, a first-year who works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter, received the vaccine under Colorado’s Phase 1 rollout. “I think that it’s great that many CC students are being proactive about getting vaccinated. That being said, folks on campus, at least people who aren’t immunocompromised or work frontline, need to be cognizant when they try to get their jabs to not be taking appointments that could be going to higher-risk members of the community,” the student told The Catalyst.
They added, “If you’re going out and trying to get leftovers that would be thrown out, I’m a big supporter, but if you go and make an appointment despite not being qualified in the phase, that’s just blindly abusing privilege in my opinion.”
Speaking to The Catalyst, Michelle Hewitt, the Public Health Information Officer of El Paso County, said, “El Paso County is currently focused on providing vaccines to priority populations in Phases 1A, 1B.1, 1B.2, and 1B.3 as part of Colorado’s phased vaccine distribution plan.”
The current phase includes frontline healthcare workers, first responders, Coloradans aged 60 and over, agriculture and grocery store workers, and Coloradans aged 16-59 with two or more high-risk conditions such as coronary heart disease and cancer. A full list can be found here.
“Students will be vaccinated in Phase 2 unless they meet the eligibility criteria as listed,” said Hewitt, in response to reports about CC students getting vaccinated ahead of the Phase 2 rollout. Hewitt said that officials “anticipate that supply of the COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be limited” and that the state of Colorado has created the phased vaccination plan “to ensure fair and equitable supply of COVID-19 vaccines.”
Hewitt added it is important that everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, continue to practice prevention measures including mask-wearing, social distancing, and staying home when sick.
In in a separate response given to The Catalyst, the Colorado State Joint Information Center of the Department of Public Health and Environment said, “The state’s prioritization is guidance to our providers on how to manage our constrained supply of vaccines with demand in order to save the most lives possible and end the pandemic as quickly as possible.”
The Health Department did concede, “Generally we depend on the honor system for people and providers to implement the prioritization in the spirit it was created.” They added, “If we found proof of widespread disregard of the prioritization, we would consider ceasing future supply to those providers.”
The Health Department did, however, say that they expected some Coloradans to receive vaccine access out of the prioritization to prevent waste of any doses because “at the end of the day an arm is better than no arm.”
In the COVID Weekly Report put out on Monday, CC warned students that “getting vaccinated before you’re eligible could displace someone more vulnerable from being vaccinated.” The College urged students to “please wait your turn.”
The school added, “Misrepresenting one’s status crosses an ethical line and has a negative impact on other community members by delaying vaccination for those in the current eligible phases, such as CC students with medical conditions who are eligible, and frontline essential workers whose work requires them to interact with people.”
As of March 10, 1,131,345 Coloradans have been immunized with one dose of the vaccine, while a total of 672,150 people have been fully immunized. Health officials in the state have yet to announce a date for Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout which will allow members of the general public, including college students who don’t fall under any categories in Phase 1, to get vaccinated but anticipate Phase 1B.4 of the rollout to begin around March 21.
Correction: The student who works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter was originally named in this story, but later asked their quotes to be redacted for personal and professional reasons.