By Grace Ferguson
BU began COVID-19 vaccinations for its campus staff on Friday.
The university announced on Thursday that Massachusetts had designated it as a vaccine distributor for the BU community. So far, 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine have arrived on the Charles River campus.
BU is following the state’s phased vaccination schedule, which means that only employees in healthcare and COVID-facing jobs are currently getting the vaccine, including staff for BU’s isolation housing, Student Health Services, COVID-19 testing labs, and testing sites.
“I think a big part of the reason it’s important to get vaccinated is because we live in a society. We live in a world bigger than us,” said Luke O’Roark, a staff member at one of BU’s COVID-19 testing sites.
O’Roark was one of the first to get the vaccine on Friday. He feels safer going to work now, knowing he will have some protection against the virus.
“People coming in, you don’t know what their bubbles look like, what they do on the weekends, what they do on their free time, how safe they’ve been,” he said. “It is nerve-wracking.”
On Wednesday night, O’Roark got an email inviting him to make an appointment to get the vaccine on Friday. For now, all COVID-19 vaccination appointments at BU are invite-only.
As O’Roark described it, the process of getting the vaccine went smoothly. On the day of his appointment, he filled out his daily symptom attestation and showed up to the vaccination site in West Campus. Once he got the shot, he stayed at the site for 15 minutes in case he had an allergic reaction, which has happened in rare cases.
Luckily for O’Roark, he has felt fine since he got the vaccine, except for a sore arm and some muscle pain, which are common side effects.
Some people are hesitant to get the vaccine because of the side effects, which can include flu-like symptoms. Other skeptics worry that the vaccine was developed too quickly. But those worries didn’t phase O’Roark.
“As a type 1 diabetic, I usually trust the medicine I’ve been given because I’m on such a slippery slope all the time,” he said.
O’Roark is due for his second dose in three weeks. All of the 500 doses BU has received are expected to be used as first doses. The university hopes to get more vaccines from the state soon to be used as second doses.
The university’s goal is to eventually vaccinate all 45,000 of its students and employees. It isn’t clear how long that will take—BU gets its vaccines from the state, which depends on the federal government’s supply.
BU’s Vaccine Preparedness Group has been making plans to distribute the vaccine equitably and in accordance with state guidelines. As the university gets more vaccine doses, community members will be prioritized based on their job, age, and comorbidities as the state guidelines allow.
Even with a growing number of people getting vaccinated, BU’s COVID-19 protocols are not being relaxed for the spring semester.
The Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective at preventing people from getting COVID-19 symptoms, but there is no evidence yet that it prevents asymptomatic spread. That’s why BU health officials are urging the community to keep wearing masks and limiting interactions.
Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services and co-chair of the Vaccine Preparedness Group, did not respond to a request to be interviewed for the story.