On Feb. 22, Governor Ned Lamont announced the new plan for a vaccine rollout in Connecticut, which began on March 1. This received mixed responses from UConn students, especially from those who will now have to wait longer than anticipated for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The original vaccine plan prioritized frontline essential workers, including grocery store and transportation workers. As outlined by the CDC, some medical conditions such as cancer, Down syndrome and sickle cell disease create an increased risk for severe responses to COVID-19. Connecticut residents ages 16 to 64 who fall into these categories were expected to have vaccinations starting in March.
However, the new vaccination plan generally does not prioritize by profession or health status. The exception is teachers and childcare professionals, who are currently eligible to be vaccinated through dedicated clinics.
Sarah Hill, an eighth-semester environmental studies major, expressed her disappointment over the change in schedule.
“This negatively affects me because I have a rare disease, so I’m high risk and was originally going to be able to get vaccinated in March from what Connecticut was indicating. Now, I have to wait ‘til our whole age group can (get vaccinated),” Hill said.
The new vaccination plan staggers vaccinations by age group. Connecticut residents ages 55 and up could register to get the vaccine starting March 1. Residents ages 45 and up are scheduled to be able to register for vaccinations starting March 22, residents ages 35 and up are scheduled for registration starting April 12
, and residents ages 16 and up can schedule their vaccinations starting May 3.
To Hill, this change seemed to erase younger people with underlying health issues from the narrative.
“This change is frustrating because it almost seems to imply that high risk individuals or individuals with underlying health issues that put us at higher risk for COVID are just in the older age groups, which is not true. We exist in every age group and deserve to have health protection,” Hill said.
Hill was not the only student who expressed this concern. UConn UNCHAINED, a left-wing activist group at the university, started a petition for the state to reprioritize those who have underlying conditions which put them at risk for severe illness.
Kobe Davis is a sixth semester sociology major. Davis has a job that classifies him as a frontline worker, meaning under the old plan, he potentially would have been able to be vaccinated this month. He expressed frustration about the change in vaccine rollout.
“When I heard about it, I was furious and felt betrayed,” Davis said. “I deal with many people in close contact. I worked the whole duration of the pandemic being called a hero, and when it’s my chance to get the vaccine I get pushed down and basically not cared about anymore.”
Grace Curley-Holmes is a sixth-semester biomedical engineering major. Curley-Holmes echoed some of Davis’s concerns about the new vaccine plan.
“For the past year I’ve been avoiding getting this virus, and it has felt like running a marathon, when the vaccine got approved by the FDA it was like I could finally see the finish line. Then when they changed the vaccine rollout it was like they had moved the finish line further from me and I have to continue running,” Curley-Holmes said.
However, Curley-Holmes said she recognizes the reasons for the change.
“After thinking about it, I understand the approach the government’s taking. Although I’m working ‘on the front lines’ and in contact with many individuals, my odds of survival from the virus are significantly higher than that of older individuals in the community, including my parents,” Curley-Holmes said.
Though preK-12 teachers are currently eligible for vaccination under the new vaccine plan, higher education staff are not. University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the university will make changes to their rollout plan to staff in accordance with state guidance.
“UConn follows the state’s guidance on vaccine distribution, and will adjust in whatever ways are necessary to mirror those plans,” Reitz said.