On Dec. 11, the Food and Drug Administration granted the first emergency use authorization for the highly effective, two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine — a turning point in the United States’ race to produce and distribute a safe and effective inoculation. Unfortunately, nationwide supply shortages, storage difficulties and distribution disarray have left many Americans vaccine-less. To ensure healthcare equity and the safety of the Gambier community, Kenyon must develop a comprehensive vaccination plan, including plans to distribute sufficient doses for all members of faculty, staff and the student body.
As it stands, Kenyon’s administration has not made public a COVID-19 vaccination plan, nor do they have one in the works — troubling, considering the pandemic is responsible for nearly 450,000 American deaths, including 65 here in Knox County. While the College noted that it has been in contact with Knox Public Health regarding vaccination opportunities, President Decatur said in a Feb. 3 interview with the Collegian that Kenyon does “not yet” have a vaccination rollout program in place. Even if Kenyon does acquire sufficient vaccine doses, without a nuanced and comprehensive plan, there’s no guaranteeing the doses will be appropriately managed and distributed. The lack of a vaccine plan is especially jarring when compared to the many spread reduction efforts that the College has enacted — social distancing, the implementation of remote learning and a mask mandate, among others. In fact, the only mention of vaccination in the entirety of the school’s COVID-19 addendum is that, “the College encourages students to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.” This lackluster one-sentence statement is a disservice to the hundreds of students and faculty that are anxiously waiting for the school to release a vaccine plan.
The Biden administration has remained adamant that by the fall, anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. However, that is many months out, and the most vulnerable populations cannot wait that long. Among those most susceptible to COVID-19 are communities of color who, according to a report by the CDC, are nearly three times more likely to die from the virus than white individuals. This staggering statistic, compounded with the fact that BIPOC are having a discernibly more difficult time obtaining the vaccine, represents a clear and present inequity in America’s vaccine rollout. Kenyon has the unique opportunity to combat this injustice head-on; by creating a vaccination plan and obtaining vaccines for all members of the Kenyon community, the College would help to eliminate this healthcare inequity within the community.
While national supply shortages and state-specific vaccination procedures may delay any attempt the College makes at community-wide vaccination, a lack of financial resources will most likely not be Kenyon’s problem. Take Fordham University, for example. Fordham has 10 times the population of Kenyon, but just under double the endowment. Despite having five times fewer dollars per student, Fordham has managed to successfully order doses of the Moderna vaccine for all 16,000 of their students, faculty and staff. If feasibility is not the problem, why hasn’t Kenyon done the same?
Kenyon must take immediate action to produce a COVID-19 vaccination plan; it cannot sit on its hands and leave our community at the mercy of both COVID-19 and the inequitable disaster that is the American healthcare system.
Salvatore Macchione ’23 is an American studies major from Chicago, Ill. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.