With the third phase of Massachusetts’ vaccine rollout plan making those aged 16 and older eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, Andover partnered with Lawrence General Hospital to make the Pfizer vaccine accessible to students. Eligible students were administered the vaccine on Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29. According to Medical Director Dr. Amy Patel, the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center team has looked into every potential option for vaccine access since December.
“We applied to be a vaccine site for Covid-19 for our community members; we applied to try to be a site for individuals outside of [Andover;] we looked at partnering with hospitals, urgent care centers, other health centers… so we’ve already been in contact with all these different entities for the last four to five months. And then once the vaccine eligibility expanded to 16 and up, a number of these sites were able to then help us develop a plan around collaboration and partnership,” said Patel.
The key factors that played into Andover’s decision to collaborate with Lawrence General Hospital included making sure that there is the opportunity to offer the vaccine to every one of Andover’s eligible students, as well as making sure students were getting vaccinated safely.
“We’ve been so careful to limit our community members’ interactions with individuals outside of our testing and symptom tracking pool. We’ve been trying to look for sites that can either offer vaccination just for our individuals, which is actually what Lawrence General will offer, for there to be a smaller number of individuals that will be potentially interacting with our students,” said Patel.
Patel continued, “[Lawrence General Hospital] has been doing such a great job vaccinating individuals in the Merrimack Valley region or Essex County. And they have a very well defined system already. So I feel really grateful that they’re expanding their expertise and their access to vaccines.”
Students were given the option to choose between two blocks of time: Wednesday, April 28, 2:40-4:40 p.m. EST and Thursday, April 29, 12:40-4:40 p.m. EST, to receive their vaccinations from Lawrence General Hospital. The second dose is to be scheduled when students get their first dose, and Lawrence General Hospital has set aside time for these second appointments on Wednesday, May 19, and Thursday, May 20.
According to Patel, these six hours offer every eligible student on-campus an opportunity to get vaccinated, given that Lawrence General Hospital can accommodate just over 120 students per hour. As of April 27, 2021, 442 students have signed up to receive the vaccine through Andover’s collaboration with Lawrence General Hospital, and Sykes is aware of 186 students who have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Multiple students, such as Siddhant Sinha ’21, reacted with joy to these plans, however, were not expecting any shifts in safety guidelines. However, Jennifer Elliot, Dean of Students and Residential Life, announced on Wednesday that boarders will be allowed to go to downtown Andover and campus will allow visitors.
“I was obviously disappointed last week when we found out that Exeter was getting vaccines and we weren’t, but I’m really glad that Andover’s been able to arrange the Pfizer vaccine for us next week. Though we’re getting vaccinated, I doubt many of the on-campus safety guidelines will change because I think the vaccine takes a few weeks to become effective. Anyways, I hope the vaccination process goes well, so that a lot of us can be immune by the summer,” wrote Sinha in an email to The Phillipian.
Jada Aryee ’22, a New York resident, was expecting to have to wait until this summer to be vaccinated. She echoed Sinha’s sentiments and expressed her excitement towards Andover’s vaccination plans.
“Even though there is some skepticism concerning the vaccine, I think that having something extra to help prevent me from getting Covid-19 is worth getting. Plus, my parents and aunt have been vaccinated and are completely fine, so why not,” said Aryee.
The Sykes team has also been looking at subsets of the student body to make sure they can provide individualized vaccination options and advice. Those aged 18 and older will work directly with Sykes to schedule and consent for the vaccine, as the Lawrence General Hospital requires those individuals to sign directly for themselves. For students who are currently 15 but will become eligible by turning 16 before Graduation Day, Sykes will work with those students’ families to select ways for them to get either one or two doses of the vaccine.
Another group that Sykes has been monitoring closely are juveniles who have a history of a life threatening allergy and are prescribed an Epinephrine Auto-Injector—these individuals will need to be monitored for 30 minutes as opposed to 15 minutes after getting vaccinated. For students aged under 16, the Food and Drug Administration has not authorized any use of the vaccine yet.
With regards to faculty and staff, Andover had hosted one vaccine clinic on campus for higher risk employees, while others have been able to get vaccinated through local vaccine options. According to Patel, employees were anonymously surveyed in April 2021 about their Covid-19 vaccine status, and of those who responded, over 80 percent had received at least one dose of the vaccine—however, this number is likely higher now.
Madeleine Shaffer ’23 sees the vaccination plan as crucial to Andover’s commitment to student health and wellness.
“I am excited that the administration has figured out a way to vaccinate all eligible students. It has been very stressful for some students and faculty to learn on campus unvaccinated since they are very aware of the risks that we are taking. One of the things that Andover takes very seriously is everybody’s health and peace of mind so I think this is an important step in showing their commitment to campus safety,” said Shaffer.