As Americans anticipate the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine, administrators at Harvard have started to prepare for its implications on campus.
Both Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have completed trials on vaccine candidates and are awaiting emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to send 300,000 doses of the vaccine to Massachusetts this month, beginning with a shipment of nearly 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
In a Thursday interview with The Crimson, University President Lawrence S. Bacow emphasized that Harvard will defer to the government on issues related to vaccine distribution.
“The government is going to determine who gets it and what the priority is for that,” he said. “It's not even clear that we're going to be administering the vaccine.”
University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 — who leads the University Coronavirus Advisory Group — confirmed that the responsibility will fall to the state government.
“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will determine which groups will receive the vaccine as a priority and is responsible for distribution of the vaccine in the state,” Garber wrote on Sunday.
Nonetheless, Garber wrote that Harvard University Health Services “is already preparing for aspects of vaccine distribution that Harvard might be responsible for.”
Garber also noted that the University Coronavirus Advisory Group — which includes experts on public health, public policy, and medicine — has “begun to consider a number of issues related to vaccines as they will pertain to the University.”
The University is mulling, for example, whether it will require a COVID-19 vaccination for future on-campus residents, according to Bacow.
“We are looking at that issue,” he said. “There's also a question of legally, what can we require or not. We're exploring that.”
Harvard has asked already students who will live on campus in the spring semester to receive the seasonal flu vaccine.
Another issue Bacow raised is whether campus “visitors” will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while they are in Massachusetts.
“We have all sorts of visitors to our campus at various times,” he said. “Are they only going to be able to receive vaccines in their place of residence, permanent residence, or will they be able to receive them here?”
Excluding those unable to receive vaccinations for medical reasons, Bacow said he hopes everyone on campus will receive the shots.
“We want everybody on our campus to be vaccinated,” he said.
—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.
—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.