Lewis & Clark canceled the COVID-19 vaccination clinic scheduled for April 10 at Pamplin Sports Center three days before the event was set to take place. LC has yet to announce if there will be other clinics during the remainder of the semester.
The medical provider that was slated to administer vaccinations unexpectedly did not have the doses required to go through with the clinic. In an email sent on April 7 to those who expressed interest in the clinic, the college apologized for “raising hopes” and encouraged those who are eligible to pursue vaccination through other means. There were no available appointments in the Portland area the day the email was sent.
According to Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan, immunization is a key step for LC to begin moving forward.
“It is extremely important for our entire LC community to obtain vaccination so that we can reach herd immunity as soon as possible,” Holmes-Sullivan said via email. “After we have achieved herd immunity, it will allow us to resume most if not all of our normal activities and programs without the fear of transmission of the virus.”
On March 30, employees were first notified of the clinic by their supervisors. A bulletin was sent out to the entire campus that evening to specify LC’s vaccination plans. If the clinic took place, “frontline workers” as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could have been vaccinated, including the on-campus partner employees and student employees who receive payroll.
Alaryx Tenzer ’23, who has already been fully vaccinated as of March 4, was “amazed” that LC had been able to become a vaccine distributor and plan a clinic so quickly, though the clinic has been canceled. Tenzer, an Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) senator, was planning on advocating for vaccination-related transportation for students.
“Frankly, I know that we all have very complicated relationships with administration, myself included, but the fact that they’ve worked so hard to manage to get a free vaccine on campus for students who therefore don’t have to travel — I was very impressed by that, and I’m very happy about it,” Tenzer said.
Tenzer felt a “moral obligation” to increase accessibility to the vaccine for LC students, so he had publicly offered to drive any eligible LC students to their vaccine appointments. No one has taken up his offer yet.
“Getting from here to the convention center is probably like a $25 Lyft,” Tenzer said. “That’s a huge cost barrier, particularly given that the vaccine itself is free.”
Before LC announced the clinic, some community members had already been immunized. One student claims to have been vaccinated earlier than they were eligible to do so, but felt justified as a Black student at a predominantly white institution due to the history of medical racism. The identity of this student has been withheld for their protection.
“(The government) is clearly not here to protect people that look like me,” the student said. “So I just made sure I’d take the measures that I took to protect myself and my family.”
The student is in a pod with another student who works as a personal care assistant for an elderly woman. The elderly woman wanted all of her care assistant’s pod to be vaccinated, so she wrote a letter claiming that they all played a role in her care in early March. Shortly after, the student booked an appointment in Olympia, Washington. Other students received the vaccination after an error in Oregon’s vaccine registry, which is regulated by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), falsely alerted 11,000 people that they were eligible to receive a vaccine at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Despite the glitch, OHA decided to honor the false alerts and allowed those who received them to schedule their appointments.
Hanna Wright ’23 was one of the 11,000 people who received the false alert, but was enthusiastic to get her first dose on March 29.
“Everybody was in such a good mood because we were all there to get vaccinated,” Wright said. “Inside, there was like 20 different lines to go through, but once you got through, then the actual process was super easy.”
Wright encouraged everyone who qualifies to get vaccinated and wear a double mask due to the density of people at the convention center.
Lily Schaffer ’23, who worked at a summer camp before the Fall 2020 semester, qualified for the vaccine as a child care worker. Schaffer booked an appointment in Washington because of scheduling difficulties in Oregon. She received her first inoculation on March 25, and is already scheduled for the second in the coming weeks.
Schaffer said she is “relieved” to be vaccinated, despite negative reactions.
“I did get the nasty butt end of the side effects, which have not completely gone away,” Schaffer said. “But still I’ll take the side effects over not being vaccinated.”
LC plans to have fully in-person instruction for Fall 2021, so many students have inquired if COVID-19 vaccination will be mandated upon entry. Holmes-Sullivan and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bruce Suttemeier were asked about this during the Q&A portion of the March 30 ASLC meeting, and said LC was still considering the policy.
In an email sent after the ASLC meeting, Holmes-Sullivan reaffirmed LC was still considering mandating vaccinations, but said the college will make a decision and announce it in the upcoming weeks.
Wright said this is a step that the college should take to ensure the safety of the community.
“If we’re going to have plans to be fully in person in the Fall, I think they need to make it mandatory that everybody has a vaccine,” Wright said. “If that’s the case, likely we should actually host a clinic, if that’s possible, on campus, or at least make it really accessible for our students to be able to access (vaccination).”
At the ASLC meeting, Holmes-Sullivan said that if vaccines were mandated, clinics would be held on campus for students who had trouble getting access, if necessary.
Tenzer agrees that accessibility is important, but also said that the college should follow what it has done for other vaccines in the past and recognize some vulnerable populations may not be able to be inoculated.
“The college should be very careful about what this decision is because of how it will alter their precedent going on in the future,” Tenzer said. “It also should at least strongly encourage, if not make mandatory (vaccinations), for people for whom the vaccine is shown to be safe.”
Holmes-Sullivan said she is excited for the LC community to continue getting vaccinated.
“The importance of obtaining a vaccine can not be overstated for the overall health and safety of our community,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “We are working as quickly as we can to bring this opportunity to our campus so that we can get back to normal operations as soon as possible.”
Everyone 16 or older will be eligible for vaccinations in Oregon on April 16.