Over the summer of 2020, during one of the peaks of the pandemic, I was chatting with my dad about the idea of going back to normal as he was working from home. I had received the news that Fairfield University was allowing the option for students to move back onto campus for the following fall- albeit with restrictions – and though I was excited to go back to my new home, I was fearful that students would not be responsible and campus shut down was inevitable. I remember my dad mentioning the vaccine trials that were taking place, and that perhaps we would be out of this sooner than we thought. Though the pandemic lasted for a lot longer, we have been following the development of the COVID vaccine since its early trials. Now that it’s time to get the vaccine, it feels like our conversation in the summer was more prophetic than speculative.

In Connecticut, the COVID-19 vaccine is being offered to people as young as sixteen. This means that everyone on campus is now able to get the vaccine as long as they are in the state of Connecticut. If most people on campus are willing and able to get the vaccine, campus life would change drastically – and for the better. We’re already seeing groups of friends hanging out outside playing sports, doing homework or just getting some sun, without the anxiety of contracting COVID-19. Though the risk is still prevalent (in fact, there are multiple strains of COVID that are highly contagious and not as well fought off by our existing vaccines), we have already seen a shift in campus life. As the weather continues to warm up and more students start getting vaccines, residents will be more inclined to treat life as if it were normal. 

To counteract this premature sense of normalcy, I’m here to be a more pessimistic voice: as long as Fairfield University is not requiring vaccines, and since we are still in the beginning stages of supplying vaccines, only a small portion of students are protected from the COVID-19 virus. Even then, the students who are vaccinated could be carriers. As the weather continues to warm up and we receive more hopeful news, we must still remain vigilant against this deadly virus.

The first thing we all must do is to continue wearing our masks. We have known since the beginning of the pandemic that wearing masks can save lives, and it has been one of the only constants throughout this past year. We should not abandon our masks just because the vaccine and Fairfield’s COVID-19 guidelines are working. We must remain respectful towards ourselves and others, whose conditions we do not know, and continue to follow both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Fairfield University’s rules to stay safe.

As for what Fairfield itself should do, I would like to see a vaccination clinic on campus. I, along with most first years and sophomores on campus, do not have a car to get to a vaccination appointment. As much as I appreciate the Stag Bus, it takes a total of two hours just to pick up something from the bookstore because of the route it takes. For the purposes of getting a vaccine, I would much rather be in and out of the public as quickly as possible, especially because of the pandemic. As well as this, some of the places that are offering a vaccine are not reachable by Stag Bus. Students should have access to this life saving medicine, and having a COVID vaccine clinic on campus is the perfect solution. 

Having the option to get the COVID vaccine on campus would also increase the likelihood of students to get the vaccine. Getting off campus can be difficult or inconvenient when a student is swamped with work (like all of us are this semester). If the vaccine were provided on campus, I believe that students would make the trip to get it. Students already have to go to the Rec Plex for weekly testing, too – since everyone makes that trip every week, students would know how to manage their time to get the vaccine as well. 

Letting students get the COVID vaccine on campus would also allow for a safer environment. Students are already playing outside without masks, and though it is heartwarming to see everyone enjoying their time together, I cannot help but feel that this would simply increase the rates of COVID on campus than diminish them. Even though being outside is safer, it is still not a good idea to have students gathering in small patches of lawn without masks on. Having the COVID vaccine on campus would decrease my own fears about the increase of socialization between students.

Fairfield should have a COVID vaccine clinic on campus, but in the end, as long as everyone keeps wearing their masks, going to weekly testing and following guidelines, we should be okay. I am excited to see how next semester will change given the increased opportunities to get the vaccine, and hope that while we are here, we do not throw away the hard work we have accomplished.

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