COVID-19 interrupted all plans in 2020, Fauci should not make promises for 2021

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SYDNEY KEHOE / THE FLAT HAT

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to live with constant disappointment. As the months have flown by, countless events, jobs and other activities to which we have looked forward to have all been canceled or greatly changed in some way. We used to use phrases such as “when this is all over,” but that end date has been postponed so many times, what does that phrase even mean anymore?

Before this semester started, the College of William and Mary announced that we would be welcoming Dr. Anthony Fauci to our campus virtually to speak about the pandemic, recommended college practices and vaccine rollout throughout the year 2021. We were supposed to host him Jan. 26, however, due to a last-minute conflict, the Zoom call took place Feb. 18.

The conversation about vaccine rollout expectations both piqued my interest and confused me. Fauci said that he expected college students without any underlying conditions, who are part of the final group to get vaccinations, to be able to get at least the first vaccine by May. Immediately, this date shocked me. Virginia has barely started vaccinating people in the 1b category, which includes people over the age of 65, people ages 16-65 with underlying conditions, front line workers and people living in “correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor campus” (VDH COVID-19 Vaccine). I have a few friends from Virginia whose grandparents have gotten vaccinated, but besides that, these other high-risk groups remain on the waiting list, helpless until they receive a phone call with the available date.

If the end of phases 1b and 1c are not even in sight, how are college students without underlying conditions only a few months away from receiving their vaccines? Of course, that would be wonderful, however, it doesn’t seem realistic — at least not nationwide.

I live in New Jersey when I’m not at the College, and the differences in vaccine rollout are clear. In New Jersey, medical professionals are currently vaccinating people categorized in 1b every day at sites state-wide. Some appointments are at hospitals while others are at “megasites” such as MetLife Stadium and struggling malls. In no way is New Jersey’s system perfect, but Virginia does not even have those megasites, which is likely a cause of the underwhelming rollout of vaccinations.

The vaccination process has two key components: having enough vaccines for the public and having enough resources — such as employees, facilities and other materials — to use the vaccines before they expire. While the latter seemed to be the main concern at the start of the vaccination process, now it seems that many states are struggling to even receive enough vaccines in the first place.

I cannot help but wonder if geographically larger states with more communities that lack convenient access to health care facilities are struggling more, considering the disparity in the statewide organization, or lack thereof, that I have seen in Virginia. For example, my roommate lives in southwestern Virginia, and the only hospital close to where she lives is about a half hour away, and the next closest hospital is about an hour away. Although she is in category 1b, she has been on the waitlist for over a month without hearing about an appointment date.

As a current junior, I’m dreaming of a normal senior year. With big personal growth plans that I want to see through before graduation, I’m paying attention to all available dates and COVID-19 related estimates. More importantly, I want to be able to graduate and know that companies will be hiring. There are so many unknown factors and the idea of all students at the College being vaccinated before next semester begins even feels like a generous estimate considering what we’ve seen of vaccine rollout thus far. When trying to register in New Jersey last week, the earliest date available was September.

Of course, President Joe Biden has ordered increased production of the vaccine and other companies are coming out with their own versions, but Fauci’s estimate that healthy college students will be able to get their vaccines starting in May seems to be a best-case-scenario prediction instead of one that is actually realistic, especially nationwide. Every state is handling the vaccine rollout differently, which has clearly caused each state to be at drastically different points of progress — and that’s not even considering states that are struggling even more than these two.

Fauci already previously estimated that healthy college students would be vaccinated by April, and that date was pushed back due to changes with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine’s production schedule. Unfortunately, I do not anticipate that being the last setback. Just like everything else right now, this hopeful date for us here at the College will continue to be pushed back, likely through the summer. I recommend taking Fauci’s predictions with a grain of salt and using pencil instead of pen in your calendar through at least the end of this year.

Alyssa Slovin ‘22 is an English and marketing double major. Besides her work at The Flat Hat as Opinions Editor and Flat Hat Magazine as Editor-in-Chief, she is involved in Sinfonicron Light Opera Company, The Gallery and Active Minds. Email Alyssa at amslovin@email.wm.edu.