In recent days, two drug manufactures, Pfizer and Moderna, have both announced that their COVID-19 vaccines have had more than a 90% success rate in clinical trials. The thought of a COVID vaccine is sure to raise anyone’s spirits, and while college students are likely to be at the back of the line when vaccines are distributed, some college officials are hopeful that students may be able to be vaccinated by late next spring or summer.
The logistics of a successful coronavirus vaccine are still largely up in the air. One of the vaccines on trial is two shots, rather than one, and needs to be frozen, meaning that the production and distribution of the vaccine may take longer to reach a critical mass. Gerri Taylor, co-chair of the American College Health Association’s coronavirus task force, foresees that mask wearing, social distancing, frequent hand washing and other public health strategies will continue to be required for the Spring 2021 semester even as a vaccine is distributed.
Some college officials are optimistic for a more “normal” Fall 2021 semester. Dr. Peter Hotez from the Baylor College of Medicine believes widespread vaccination may reach effective levels by the summer, making it safer for colleges to return to their pre-COVID operations – having in-person classes, opening communal spaces and the like – by the fall.
Fall 2021 may feel far away, but optimism about either of the COVID-19 vaccines is infectious. Some colleges may continue to play it safe with online classes and lower occupancy in student dorms. Others may relax health restrictions as a vaccine is distributed. Either way, a return to normal for both college students and college administrators seems to be on the horizon.