Editor’s Note Episode 19: Students get vaccinated
With vaccine rollout underway in Missouri, freshman Olivia Poolos talks to Senior News Editor junior Em McPhie and freshman Charlotte Kramon about Washington University students who’ve taken long road trips to secure extra doses or nabbed their shots before becoming eligible. Freshman Kamala Madireddi edited the audio. Copy Chief JJ Coley wrote the theme music.
OLIVIA POOLOS (0:08-1:56): As the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel becomes clearer, many Washington University students are eager to get vaccinated and return to their normal lives. According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, over 25% of Missourians have had at least one dose of vaccine, and almost 15% are fully vaccinated. Even more specifically, 16% of people in St. Louis County, where the University is located, have been fully vaccinated. Some of that 16% are Wash. U. students, a fraction of whom either took long road trips to secure extra doses or nabbed their shots before becoming eligible.
I’m Olivia Poolos, and you’re listening to Editor’s Note, Student Life’s weekly podcast breaking down our biggest stories with the reporters and editors that covered them.
Missouri is currently in phase 2, and some Wash. U. students with underlying conditions or certain types of employment are eligible. But many others aren’t. According to Missouri’s official COVID website, phase three of vaccine rollout in the state, which encapsulates all adults, will open on April 9th. Still, some students have been able to obtain the vaccine by bending the rules or driving long distances for extra vaccines in rural areas.
I spoke with Senior News Editor junior Em McPhie and freshman Charlotte Kramon, who reported on Wash. U. students’ path to getting vaccinated—both for those who are eligible and for those who are not quite yet. Kramon explained why she thinks students have felt the need to go to great lengths in order to get vaccinated.
CK (1:57-2:20): I think the administrative difficulties and messiness is what is making a lot of it super complicated and unclear and uncertain, and not knowing where to sign up. And then also, I think people just have different comfort levels in how far they’re willing to go to get a vaccine and whether or not they are willing to kind of game the system or not.
OP (2:21-2:39): According to Kramon, one student drove a couple hours into rural Illinois on a weekday in order to secure an extra dose of Pfizer. Another student, with underlying health conditions that qualified her in Illinois, was turned away once she arrived, meaning she had to rebook for the next week.
CK (2:40-2:49): Some people are driving back to their home states, some people are flying to their home states to get it because they’re just so unsure about how effective and efficient the rollout is going to be.
OP (2:50-3:06): Aside from signing up for extra doses, which is often seen as morally and socially acceptable, some students are claiming eligibility through non-legitimate health problems or jobs. However, Kramon had difficulty getting those students to speak on record.
CK (3:07-3:36): I think people were hesitant about talking about it, about wanting to be anonymous, wanting to be honest…Someone had mentioned that she had gone to a Walgreens or a Walmart, I don’t remember, and the pharmacist was talking about how the community was annoyed about how the ‘white Wash. U. kids trying to get ahead and trying to get the vaccine.’ So I think, because they also know that the community is annoyed, they don’t really want to admit that they’re contributing to that.
OP (3:37-3:47): In speaking with students around campus, Kramon found that, while most people agree that they want the vaccine, attitudes towards how to go about getting it vary.
CK (3:48-4:20): So, I think people are struggling with what the news is saying, what the websites are saying, and what they know other students are doing, and wanting to follow other students who have successfully gotten the vaccine, wanting to do that in order to make sure they definitely get it successfully…I’ve also spoken to students who are like, ‘Yeah, we know it’s going to open up soon for us, so we’ll just wait.’ And other students who are saying, Well, it’s going to open up, but it’s going to be really chaotic to sign up, so I want to get it sooner than later.’
OP (4:21-4:29): How difficult was it to find students that either went to great lengths to get the vaccine or ended up bending the rules or jumping the line?
CK (4:30-4:44): It wasn’t that difficult…There are a lot of people signing up for the extra doses, and so whether or not you call that bending the rules, I guess, is subjective, because I think they would be thrown away either way, and they are on a wait list.
OP (4:45-4:54): McPhie said that Kramon’s story fits a pattern of students trying to do whatever they can to regain some semblance of normal life.
EM MCPHIE (4:55-5:13): I think that also ties in with a lot of the coverage we’ve done about COVID cases on campus, students maybe breaking the rules and socializing when they’re not supposed to…the clusters that are on the dashboard… I think obviously everyone wants things to go back to normal, and I think skipping in line to get a vaccine is part of that.
OP(5:14-5:22): McPhie also pointed out the ill-held belief that she thinks some Wash. U. students hold about their personal right to be vaccinated early.
EM (5:23-5:40): I think it’s not surprising at all that Wash. U. students would… or that certain Wash. U. students would want to jump ahead to get their vaccinations. I think there’s also a lot of conversation going on nationally about whether that is the right thing to do.
OP (5:41-5:52): Still, Kramon highlighted that an associate professor at the Washington University School of Medicine, Steven Lawrence, emphasized the importance of getting every vaccine into arms.
CK (5:53-6:05): Dr. Lawrence was saying that in a perfect world, people who need the vaccine the most would get it first, but unfortunately logistically that’s just not possible. And so it is better for people to get doses than for them to be thrown away.
OP (6:06-6:21): Though the news section has continuously reported on the state of COVID-19 cases and vaccine efforts in St. Louis and on campus, McPhie clarified that the section was only reporting facts, and not attempting to take any particular stance on ethics.
EM (6:22-7:18): First and foremost, I don’t think it’s the news section’s responsibility to educate students about how they can get vaccinated. You know, in an ideal world, the state and local governments would be doing a much better job with this vaccine rollout and communicating when people are eligible, communicating how they can get the vaccine…This whole process has been very, very confusing. And, I think it’s very understandable the confusion that a lot of students are feeling right now…At the same time, as the news section, it’s our job to report about the facts, and the facts are that COVID is still a problem in the St. Louis community and within our campus community. And, while there certainly is a lot of optimism to be had—the end is in sight, right? But it’s not over yet, and it would be reckless to act like it is.
OP(7:19-7:37): Phase three will begin in just one week on Friday, April 9th. Editor’s Note will be back then to break down another developing story. For Student Life, I’m Olivia Poolos.