Mar 19, 2021 | OPINION | By Sam Pfeifer | Illustration by Xixi Qin
Last week, The Catalyst published an article on the recent student vaccinations at Summit Medical Clinic. In it, the author spoke with students — some who received vaccinations and some who did not — as well as officials working within the local public health bureaucracy.
I think it is well worth the read to get a handful of perspectives from students, the state, and the school. However, even though the author acknowledges that Summit Medical Clinic did not respond to The Catalyst for comment, the missing clinic’s perspective is a large chunk of the context surrounding the story.
I was one of those students who eagerly went to try and get a vaccination during the first week of Block 6. From the directive of a friend’s professor, I was told that a medical clinic was graciously offering vaccines to the public, in addition to higher-priority demographics.
I filled out a form on arrival but have yet to receive a phone call to come and get a dose. I recently was cleared to receive a dose in the near future because my childcare job was determined to be “essential.”
I know plenty of students who did receive their first dose at Summit. Experiences at Summit were varied, as some folks were able to secure a vaccine without much wait, while others had to wait a day or two before coming in.
Others, later in the week, were turned away by the clinic, which cited a lack of extra vaccine doses. From my experiences, and from what those shared with me, no student was simply chosen over others.
The frustration with some students receiving vaccinations is understandable, but have been founded within the confines of state and college regulations. While both have outlined important guidelines for Coloradans to follow, they often present an ideal framework for unregulated outrage.
For clarity, I wholeheartedly believe that students should abide by the state’s rollout procedure. However, presenting students actions as reckless, or the clinic’s actions to be blindly ignorant, seems far-fetched.
Guidelines set forth by the state and by the school are also seemingly based on a supposed doctrine of “fairness.” In other words, fairness implies that there is some level of objective understanding as to who gets the vaccines first. This is not to negate that those determined as essential are not essential. But if we looked at the demographic breakdown of COVID-related deaths, would we deem it fair that communities of color be vaccinated before everyone?
What about the determination of “vulnerability”? By what standard are we determining who gets to be a “Vulnerable American”? While frontline workers working with homeless communities are characterized as “vulnerable,” unhoused populations are not? What about the recent blocking of efforts to share the vaccine with poorer countries? The U.S., among other wealthier nations, chose to block a recent directive at the World Trade Organization to share the vaccine with countries that do not have resources. Those people are not vulnerable or essential?
And what about CC? In the article, the college is quoted saying that “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.” I find constant frustration with CC’s apparent concern for vulnerable community members in and out of CC, while also being vague or inconsistent in enforcement, and prioritizing certain groups like athletics.
Take into account my friend who, while not meeting the current phase of the rollout protocol, has vaccine access, while his older parents do not. Doesn’t getting a vaccine help protect his family when he goes and visits them? There are so many complexities between dishonest recklessness and waiting your turn. As another student who wanted to remain anonymous put it, “The vaccine isn’t going to find you and I’m honestly glad students are going out and trying to find it.”
This isn’t to point fingers, but rather question the idea that these regulations are sacred.
Recently, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety wrote a guest column in The Gazette. In the concluding thoughts, they wrote, “This is not a zero-sum equation: We are all in this together, and we all benefit from getting the most Coloradans vaccinated as soon as possible, and not letting a single dose go to waste.”
People are doing their best. Students are doing their best. Healthcare workers are doing their best. Our other frontline workers are doing their best. To ask for this rigid compliance is to demand for perfection, something no one is capable of. From my experience, and from the experience of other students I have talked to (who have received a dose or not), there hasn’t been any immoral compromising or misrepresentation on the part of Summit or students.
Furthermore, the focus on students not abiding by state guidelines also takes our focus away from other crucial issues. Another point which is briefly touched upon in the aforementioned article should be that getting vaccinated does not mean one should stop from participating in other COVID spread prevention practices (i.e. mask-wearing, social distancing and washing hands).
I know very well the student heartbeat here at CC: If we can justify making our social activities more comfortable and routine, we will. CC students routinely go skiing and travel outside of the county. According to our guidelines and procedures, which are held so highly, just because more of us are vaccinated, does that grant us the ability to congregate and travel more?
I don’t call out this behavior for any purpose other than to highlight our consistent discrepancy in pointing fingers. I am by no means a shining example when it comes to abiding by these guidelines and procedures.
However, if we hope to ensure that we all are vigilant and intentional members of our communities, then we ought not call out with the intention of shaming. Hold the people around you accountable, and hold yourself accountable. We should not be self-selective in what moral standards we enforce.
As a member of CCSGA, and a representative of the Class of 2021, I have been consumed with how we can be better advocates of student mental well-being in the remaining time we have this year. Our full council has had recent discussions about how this year has taken a drastic emotional, mental and physical toll on students, as well as faculty and staff.
We all have taken major blows to our school year. For the Class of 2021, this is our last year, and it is heartbreaking. Everyone I talk to feels the same way: utterly exhausted. So on top of working to ensure that we all remain safe and healthy, make sure to give yourself grace. Whether it is the school, or the state, or our fellow students, it is tiring to be constantly on the offensive if you are also not checking in with yourself.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please email me if I have been misrepresentative, or, if you simply want to talk about how I, along with CCSGA as a whole, can support you better.