The COVID-19 vaccine has been accessible to certain, high-risk groups since January. Given increased distribution of the vaccine under President Joe Biden’s administration, students, staff and faculty alike on Albion College’s campus are wondering if they will be receiving it and what will next year look like if they do.
Matt Arend, athletic director and COVID-19 coordinator at Albion, is working on answering these questions. Though nothing is set in stone at this time, Arend said he has some ideas about how the next six months will go.
Whether or not students get vaccinated before the end of the semester depends entirely on where the county is in its rollout plan. Chief of staff Kelly Finn says that the Albion administration is working with the county on getting people vaccinated.
“We are working closely with Calhoun County and will follow their timeline related to the roll-out of the vaccines,” said Finn, via email. “We will share more with students about timelines on the vaccine when we have more information to share.”
The Calhoun County website page on vaccine information details the different phases of distribution and which groups are currently being vaccinated. They are currently in the middle of phase one, which means there are still many people who will receive the vaccination before Albion students will be able to.
“In Calhoun County, the general public, which is the non-specific demographic like the 65 and olders, frontline workers, restaurant workers, individuals that don’t have the opportunity to work from home or work remotely,” said Arend.“It’s going to be after they’re all vaccinated.”
Considering this information, Arend said he thinks that the college will not be vaccinating students this semester. If students intend to get vaccinated, Arend predicted that it would probably happen over the summer. However, there is no guarantee that all students will be vaccinated by the start of next semester.
“It’s possible that even by the time we get to August, not every student has had the opportunity to get the vaccine by the time we come back for the fall semester,” said Arend.
Additionally, according to the CDC, even having both doses of the vaccine does not necessarily prevent a person from asymptomatically carrying and transmitting the virus.
“They believe that vaccinated individuals can still be spreaders of the virus, which means masking and social distancing is going to have to continue to exist until you hit herd immunity,” said Arend.
The CDC hasn’t yet determined what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
These two factors combined mean that COVID-19 regulations on campus will still be in place next semester. They will largely depend on the data and recommendations from the CDC.
“The challenge that exists right now with the vaccine is that there isn’t enough data to support the pullback on a number of the health and safety protocols that the CDC has put out,” said Arend. “When we create our health and safety protocols on campus, we’re gonna be using recommendations and guidelines from the CDC as well as the Michigan department of health and human services.”
The administration plans to release more information about the vaccine to encourage students about its safety and effectiveness. They continue to do everything they can to make sure students can study on-campus safely.
“In the coming weeks, we will be sharing more information and messaging about the vaccine to help answer questions, dispel myths and help students understand the importance of the vaccine,” said Finn.