March 11, 2021

EDITORIAL | Cornell, Your Community Deserves a Better Vaccination Plan

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As New York State’s vaccination program ramps up, many Cornellians are now eligible to receive their first dose under the criteria for Phase 1B. However, despite their eligibility, many students are facing obstacles in traveling to vaccination sites in Syracuse and Binghamton. 

If Cornell truly wants to encourage health and safety, it needs a better plan to help its community receive vaccinations. Now, as dining workers, residential advisers and in-person instructors are eligible, the University should assist at-risk individuals by offering scheduling, transportation and informational assistance. 

“I felt completely alone in trying to arrange my appointment to begin with,” said Selin Cebel ’21, a student manager at Green Dragon Café. “Being an international student, I didn’t know how to find my way in scheduling this sort of thing.”

Cebel, who traveled to Syracuse for the vaccination last week, had to rent a car in order to receive her first dose. “Taking a public bus right now isn’t the best thing to do, especially when you’re going to get the vaccine, and so I had to rent a car from Central Ithaca,” she added. “But this was a big consideration, because I had to completely finance this myself, and I knew that both renting a car and taking a bus would be expensive.” 

Students aren’t the only ones who feel abandoned. Prof. Allison Chatrchyan, earth and atmospheric sciences, described how, other than sending an email confirming her eligibility, the University did not offer any help in her vaccination process. 

“I wish that Cornell could have worked with New York State or Tompkins County to set up an immunization clinic for in-person instructors,” she said. While Tompkins County recently opened a vaccination registry, it remains challenging to get an appointment. Luckily, after “sitting at [the] computer for hours and hitting the refresh button,” Chatrchyan was able to get an appointment at a site in Binghamton. Over an hour outside of Ithaca, she said the commute would not have been possible without a car.

If you’re eligible, you should get vaccinated. It’s important, not only for your own health and well-being, but for that of those around you. It’s also an essential step toward achieving herd immunity, which is especially critical for those who can’t receive the vaccination due to compromised immune systems or inaccessibility. Although Cornell isn’t requiring its employees and students to get vaccinated, it recognizes that the vaccination is “key to the resolution of this global pandemic.” Now, it is the University’s obligation to put its words into action and meaningfully help its community receive the medical treatment it’s eligible for.

Alongside the logistical issues, institutional medical racism and a history of abuse further complicate the path toward a vaccinated population. Not only are Black Americans more likely to live in vaccine deserts, they are also experiencing higher rates of hospitalization and deaths due to COVID-19. In order to create a more equitable future, Cornell must account for the valid concerns of the Black community as it works to fight the pandemic’s racial disparities. This includes improving access to information, resources and vaccines. 

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that Black individuals, such as myself, have genuine questions about the information that is being released from the medical community,” said Kayla Bouazouni ’22, a student manager at Rose Dining Hall. “We have historically experienced mistreatment and discrimination from the healthcare system, and I hope that the Cornell community acknowledges that there are real people with real concerns.”

Vaccines will not end the pandemic alone. But they’re a critical piece of the puzzle. As we approach the one-year mark since Cornellians were abruptly sent home from campus, we must do our best to protect and preserve this campus and the larger Ithaca community. That includes a more comprehensive and thoughtful vaccination plan.

The above editorial reflects the opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Editorials are penned collaboratively between the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor and Opinion Editor, in consultation with additional Sun editors and staffers. The Sun’s editorials are independent of its news coverage, other columnists and advertisers.