Editorial: An extension of the second vaccination clinic would greatly benefit the student body during the final exam and move-out period
This board would like to congratulate the Brandeis COVID-19 vaccination program on a largely successful first COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Brandeis offered approximately 1,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to students on April 22 and 23, and the clinic itself was well-run and efficient. However, there were some frustrating hiccups with the vaccine appointment sign-up process, and this board still has some concerns about the plans for the second vaccination clinic scheduled for May 13 and 14.
Sign-ups for vaccination slots were set to open at 10 a.m. on April 18, but an email sent out by Assistant Provost for Strategic Initiatives Morgen Bergman at 10:48 a.m. that day announced that due to minor technical difficulties, sign-ups would be delayed until 5 p.m. When students began attempting to use the PelMeds Community Pharmacy service portal at 5 p.m., many were not able to submit the information required to schedule an appointment. Various communications were sent out by Bergman over the course of the evening encouraging students to continue trying to enter their information on the PelMeds portal and assuring them that there were still plenty of appointments left. On the afternoon of April 19, Bergman conveyed the PelMeds team’s “sincere apologies” and announced that all sign-ups had been moved to the Brandeis Passport Portal system.
This board acknowledges that the ordeal must have been very frustrating for the Brandeis and PelMeds vaccine teams, and we appreciate how hard they worked to remedy the issues. However, the entire situation created a lot of unnecessary stress and confusion for students. Because there were limited doses available and students were worried about appointments filling up, many students were reluctant to give up trying to use the PelMeds portal on the evening of April 18 and spent hours typing in their information over and over again, especially after an email from Bergman asked them to “keep trying” and “keep waiting.” Instead of encouraging students to continue trying to use the PelMeds website after it clearly was not working for a majority of them, this board believes that the appointment sign-up process should have been officially put on pause for everyone until the team was able to switch to the Brandeis Passport Portal system instead.
According to an April 16 email from Bergman, a follow-up campus clinic will be offered on May 13 and 14 to offer second doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Because side effects such as tiredness, headaches and nausea are more common after the second dose of the vaccine, this board worries about the possibility of students feeling physically wiped out during their final exams, which span from May 7 to 14. Per an April 16 email from Provost Carol Fierke and Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Stew Uretsky, residential students who feel unwell after receiving a vaccine should not leave their rooms, and nonresidential students who feel unwell should not come to campus. If students who experience negative symptoms have an in-person exam after their shot, they will not be able to make it to their exam and may have to scramble at the last minute to set up a way to take it virtually. Even for students with only virtual exams, the concern of feeling unwell during their finals might be enough to dissuade them from signing up for a second dose on May 13 or 14. This board suggests that Brandeis extend the dates of the second vaccine clinic to continue shortly after finals. Alternatively, the University could communicate with professors to set up a plan for if and when recently vaccinated students do not feel well enough to perform their best on their exams.
In the April 16 email, Bergman wrote that students who are unable to schedule their second dose in time to depart within 24 hours of their last final can apply for extended housing with the Department of Community Living. While this allowance is appreciated, this board wonders why there is a need for students to apply for extended housing at all. As long as students are able to move out before residence halls close on Monday, May 17 at noon, why do they need special permission to stay longer in order to recover from any potential side effects after their second dose? Alternatively, if special permission is not required, this board asks that the relevant department clarify that, as the confusion has caused considerable stress among the student body.
This board encourages the administration to take into consideration the needs of students during the final exam and move-out period by extending the period of the second vaccination clinic, communicating with professors to ensure that students do not have to take their exams while experiencing vaccine side effects and clarifying the move-out policies so that students know whether they need to seek special permission from DCL to stay on campus longer after their second dose.