As the supply of Covid-19 vaccines increases to meet immense demand, some observers have suggested that policy makers put college students high on the list.
Christopher R. Marsicano, director of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College, argued in a recently published that vaccinating college students would help keep everyone safe. "The broader principle in fair vaccination shots is to reduce the risk of those most at risk of spreading the virus," he wrote. "Vaccinating college students is an effective way to reduce this risk for two main reasons: College students are mobile and spread Covid-19 when they travel. They live in residential facilities where infection rates are much higher than other residential setups. "
The governor of Ohio seemed to be referring to this idea say on monday that the state would work with its colleges to ensure that all students are vaccinated before leaving for the summer break (all residents over the age of 16 are currently eligible). An Ohio news agency reported that Governor Mike DeWine said "college students have high dispersal ability," adding that "this is a big problem that we have for the entire age group."
Experts contacted by The Chronicle disagreed on whether guidelines that give college students priority are good for public health.
The American College Health Association, which has urged college students to get vaccines before the end of the spring semester to prevent them from spreading the coronavirus if they spread over the summer, is now advocating an even earlier schedule provided there are adequate doses available.
"If we have an adequate vaccine in April, it seems like a very reasonable request, given the spring break experience, that states extend that eligibility to allow college students to get vaccines," said Anita Barkin, co- Chair of the Association's Covid-19 Task Force.
However, other experts caution that further advances in vaccinating vulnerable populations must be made before college students who are otherwise unsuitable because of their health or work receive their shot.
David Michaels, a professor in the School of Public Health at George Washington University who served on the Biden administration's Covid-19 advisory board during the change of presidency, pointed out national data This indicates that more than one in four adults in the United States who are older than 65 have not yet received a single vaccine.
"Many states have essentially given up the extra effort required to get these elderly people vaccinated and they are most at risk of serious illness and death," he said. Seniors may need help navigating online appointment systems or transporting them to vaccination sites. Some people who are already eligible may be reluctant to get the vaccine and states should focus on changing some of their minds, Michaels said.
The known benefits of protecting vulnerable people directly outweigh those of indirect protection by immunizing less vulnerable members of the community, said R. Alta Charo, professor emeritus of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "While the data shows good evidence of decreased prevalence by vaccinated individuals, the data is still not as robust as the data demonstrating personal protection from vaccination," she wrote in an email. In the meantime, people at high risk have – "until they are vaccinated – only limited options to protect themselves."
"Once we have more vaccines available, which should be very soon, it makes sense to vaccinate college students, especially those returning in multi-generational families, and colleges should definitely do so," Michaels said. "But right now, I'd like to see states focus on the elderly, people with comorbidities, and key workers."
Rebecca L. Smith, an associate professor of pathobiology working on Urbana-Champaign's testing strategy at the University of Illinois, is also advocating vaccines for more vulnerable people in front of college students. "Personally, I would much rather see the vaccines go to marginalized communities that are at risk due to systematic problems in accessing health care as well as their job requiring them to be personal and in contact with other people," said she said. "It's about protecting the people who have less choice, who are at high risk of infection."
Once the main vulnerable groups are well vaccinated, there may be room for debate about who comes next should a lack of care so require. Smith advocated that jurisdictions use sophisticated models that can predict the chain effects of vaccinating one group versus another to help them make a decision. It could be that vaccinating college students has a bigger societal impact than reaching some other moderate-risk groups, but Smith was not comfortable making these calls without modeling data.
Higher-risk populations don't need to be 100 percent vaccinated before jurisdiction shifts to college students, Michaels said. After all, there may be some people who oppose the vaccine. However, officials must have made a serious effort to reach as many top priority people as possible. "I don't think we're at that point," said Michaels.
The debate over whether college students should be prioritized now could become moot. If it takes the colleges weeks to prepare a mass vaccination campaign, there may be enough shots available by that time to prevent officials from making difficult decisions. Experts that The Chronicle spoke to widely supported the idea of getting shots in the arms of college students before they travel for the summer.
(tagsToTranslate) Covid-19 (t) Davidson College (t) George Washington University (t) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (t) College Crisis Initiative (t) American College Health Association (t) University of Wisconsin at Madison (t ) t) Student Life (t) Scholarship and Research