With the national expansion of the Covid-19 vaccine for those aged 12 and older, Andover hosted a Covid-19 vaccination clinic on campus to offer an opportunity for eligible community members to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in partnership with Pelmeds, a local pharmacy. A total of 213 Andover students and seven faculty or staff dependents were vaccinated on Tuesday, May 18 in the tent between the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center and Bulfinch Hall.
Students 16 and older additionally received the second dose of the vaccine on Wednesday, May 19 and Thursday, May 20 at a Lawrence General Hospital clinic off campus.
According to Medical Director Dr. Amy Patel, students’ convenience was the biggest reason behind Andover’s partnership with Pelmeds, a local pharmacy in Waltham, MA. When Sykes learned that Pelmeds was offering its services to certain schools in Massachusetts, they immediately contacted Pelmeds and made arrangements for hosting vaccination on-campus.
“We wanted to very quickly be able to offer an option for our students on campus… we’re always trying to figure out a way to be able to minimize the amount of time our students have to spend doing things that are outside of their normal routine,” said Patel.
Many students, including Chloe Bao ’24, were thrilled to receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and expressed gratitude to the Sykes team’s efforts.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to receive the vaccine; thank you Andover. The vaccine was less painful than expected. The whole process took less than 30 minutes, I didn’t even need to wait for the injection. The station was efficient and well organized,” said Bao.
Silvia Ng ’23 echoed Bao’s sentiments. Although Ng was pleased to receive the first dose of the vaccine, she expressed regret that she would not receive the second dose on-campus before leaving for the summer.
“I got the vaccine yesterday, and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m a bit disappointed that I won’t be able to get my second dose on campus as well, but I know the school is trying their best. My arm hurts if I lift it too high but otherwise, I feel fine,” said Ng.
While many other students only reported soreness in their arms, the Sykes team has planned ahead to make sure students get the care they need in a timely fashion. According to Patel, Sykes has made sure that all students would be aware of the possibility of side effects and that the intensity of the side effects may differ based on each student’s medical circumstances, especially since students 16 and older received their second dose of the vaccine. The second dose typically produces more intense symptoms, according to “The Mercury News”.
Like any other health-related issue, students who are not feeling well after getting vaccinated should be in touch with Sykes and their instructors. Students who feel well enough to attend class are given the option to join the class period remotely via Zoom instead of in-person. For students who are feeling sick and have to miss a class, Patel advised them to call Sykes so that the Sykes team can provide the students with further guidance and a class excuse if relevant.
Students aged 12-15 years old who received the vaccine are recommended to make arrangements on their own to receive the second dose over the summer. However, Andover still plans to make arrangements for on-campus vaccination in the fall for those who are unable to receive their second dose of the vaccine.
“We want to be open to the fact that some people may not be able to get their second dose—internationally, it may actually be impossible for some folks to get the Pfizer dose. So we’re planning on having an opportunity for anybody who either didn’t get any doses or who didn’t get their second dose to get it during registration in the fall,” said Patel.
Patel continued, “There are some exceptions we want to acknowledge—if someone has a medical or religious exemption and can’t get vaccinated, we will still allow those exemptions to happen the way that we allow those exemptions for any other vaccine.”
Patel believes that the increase in the number of vaccinated community members opens up a large number of possibilities in terms of what Andover could do in this upcoming fall term, with much fewer layers of risk mitigation due to the higher state of immunity.
“I think this is a huge step forward, and it’s really incredibly powerful to see that the opportunity for this pandemic to be managed is here 15 months after it started… [In the fall] I think we’re only going to be testing if there’s someone symptomatic. I hope that we can all still continue to have the symptom tracker in our minds, and maybe even posted so that we can support a culture where we don’t have to or we shouldn’t be going to work or going to school if we’re sick. But I think the high level of vaccination on our campus is a total game-changer for us in terms of being able to have a near-normal experience,” said Patel.