Colleges and the Vaccine Rollout

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Colleges have the opportunity of a lifetime: to be essential partners in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It should go without saying that this is a once-in-a-century challenge. Experts are saying that even our most ambitious plans are not good enough

If ever there was an all-hands-on-deck moment, this is it. Colleges cannot sit this national crisis out.

It just so happens that no other institution in American society is better prepared to meet every aspect of this momentous challenge, from educating various segments of the public to actually getting shots in arms, than college campuses. 

Colleges have scientists who can help explain the vaccine to their local communities. They have experts in diversity who can customize messaging to various racial and religious minorities who have expressed hesitancy. They have their own public health clinics and departments that are preparing to do vaccine rollout for the campus community. 

Campuses have community engagement programs that are already working with local schools, civic groups, health care facilities, and the like. Even beyond formal outreach programs, the local community is surely familiar with the campus. Perhaps they’ve attended a sporting event or a speaker series or a concert. Perhaps they have a family member employed in a campus library or dining hall. 

Campuses are accustomed to managing crowds. If you can coordinate a Freshman move-in day and home football games, you can organize your institution to provide COVID-19 vaccines.

And campuses have legions of civically-minded professionals and students who would be overjoyed to be involved in something of such high purpose.

Let’s not forget that university leaders have been saying for decades that the campus is a community institution, not an ivory tower – a village commons rather than a privileged enclave, as Robert L.Fried and Eli O. Kramer, recently wrote. 

There is plenty more smart thinking along the same lines, from Laurie Patton’s observation that COVID-19 has helped campuses focus on the local to Ira Harkavy’s conviction that campuses ought to act as anchor institutions.

If you are a college administrator and you need any more motivation to pick up the phone and say ‘Put me in coach’ to the mayor or the governor, consider this: a whole set of for-profit companies (Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft) have already volunteered. Surely if companies whose principal focus is profit can play a key role in the vaccine rollout, campuses whose principal goal is to promote the general welfare can do the same.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.