Student essential workers among first to receive Covid-19 vaccine

By Charlie Keohane

Sarah Fagan
The CDC recently released new guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, but the college has thus far not made any changes to campus protocols and is not currently collecting data on which students are partially or fully vaccinated.

As the U.S. grieves 500,000 Covid-19 deaths a year into the pandemic, vaccine distribution has been a ray of hope for many. While many members of the Middlebury community are still awaiting their turn to get their shot, a small number of students have been able to receive a vaccine in the early stages of the national rollout.

Although the college has not released formal vaccination plans, some students who work with high-risk individuals returned to campus immunized. 

Sophie Levine ’23 spent her J-Term interning at a health clinic in San Francisco. She interacted directly with patients and worked in close quarters with other staff members. Levine received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine in January and the second in early February. 

As a receptionist, Levine helped San Francisco residents check to see if they were eligible for the vaccine and make appointments to receive it.

“It really demystified the whole process for me,” Levine said. “What I read in the news was daunting and made me think we would never reach an end, but seeing how many doses we had and counting the people we could vaccinate every single day gave me a little bit of hope.” 

Jasper Panger ’23 worked at a facility for people with developmental disabilities in Cincinnati. He also received the Moderna vaccine. After being vaccinated, he felt more comfortable interacting with others. “I feel like I have more peace of mind,” Panger said. “Even though I’m at Middlebury and I’m taking all the precautions, I feel a little more at ease and less anxious about catching it.”

While working as an emergency medical technician throughout last year, Emily Klar ’21 came into direct contact with Covid-19 patients. Klar, who is also a member of the Vermont National Guard, received the Moderna vaccine through Middlebury Regional Emergency Medical Services.

Even though Levine, Panger and Klar are vaccinated, they are still required to abide by college Covid-19 protocols. 

“I really try to not change my mindset since I know I should be treating the guidelines the same way,” Klar said. “I think it’s important for everyone to treat it as if you can still spread it and contract it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines this week, loosening restrictions for vaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks or social distancing, according to the new recommendations. The college has so far not changed any of its guidelines and continues to ask all students to mask up and maintain physical distance.

Although the Vermont guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals may travel without quarantining, Middlebury pre-arrival guidelines were uniform for all students regardless of vaccination status. 

“Our highest priority is the health and safety of our entire community and having consistent standards and codes of conduct is an important safeguard for the spring,” Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Julia Ferrante said in an email to The Campus. 

Although vaccines are being rolled out in the Middlebury community — with Middlebury Ski Patrol students among the first recipients due to their first responder status — the college has not released any information about the availability of vaccinations for all students. 

“We do not have any information about vaccine distribution for students at this time but are working closely with our Vermont health department and higher education colleagues to examine these questions,” Ferrante said. 

Meanwhile, vaccinated students encourage others to continue following Covid-19 safety guidelines and remain optimistic. 

“I think it’s made me hopeful that the restrictions will be relaxed soon and the vaccine will help us bring about an end to the pandemic eventually,” Klar said.