Opinion: Students should wait to get the COVID vaccine

Students should wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine if given the option until primary care workers and those at higher risk have been vaccinated. 

It is no surprise that college students are going to be a huge part of the vaccination process. Those who are physically attending public universities could be considered to be at risk of contracting COVID-19. However, unless they have an underlying health condition, they are not considered “high risk.” 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine delivered an assessment stating college students and other young people are among the last group anticipated to receive the vaccine. Unless students are essential workers or high risk, the estimated time that students will be receiving the vaccine will be in April, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via VOA news

Because many college campuses are providing their students with regular access to free and accurate testing, they are less at risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it undetected. In this way, young people are placed at a lower priority compared to those who do not have access in this way.

Suffolk University requires its on-campus residents to be tested at least twice a week or three days apart. The university also requires those who routinely come to campus to be tested at least once a week. 

Other Boston colleges have rightfully taken a similar approach as Suffolk. Harvard University, for example, requires its students and faculty to administer self directed tests regularly in order to protect their community. 

Surveillance testing can give students the peace of mind of knowing whether or not they test positive for the virus. It is a great strategy to protect those on campus and to stay on top of COVID-19 cases. Identifying a positive case before the potential spread of the virus can prevent severe damage to the community. 

College campuses have even seen a steady decline in cases after establishing these testing strategies. According to the Washington Post, cases have had a steady decline worldwide, with a decrease rate of 16% from the past week

While college students should eventually get the vaccine, it is important that the elderly and others at high risk have the opportunity to get vaccinated first. 

According to Statista, the majority of the approximate 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been above the age of 65 or have had underlying health conditions. Approximately 146,000 deaths were of those 85 or older, 128,000 of those 75 or older, and almost 100,000 in the age group of 65 or older. The age group college students fall under has had significantly fewer deaths and cases than older, high risk groups, with only 648 deaths. 

It is important that we protect those who are at high risk first. College students can wait. The desire to return to normalcy is no reason to rush.

Patience and empathy for others are what are going to get us through this difficult time. The ultimate goal is to roll out as many vaccinations as possible and to contain the virus before cases skyrocket again.