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Some dream -- others scheme -- to find a vaccine before spring break

Fred Mogul, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Hawaii, Florida, Seattle and the South of France are on the minds of New York City college students. Those are some of the destinations that undergrads mentioned when asked where they’d go for spring break, if they weren’t grounded by COVID-19.

“I’d be getting a house with 10 people, with a pool, and we’d be going crazy in Miami,” said Sile Ogundeyin, 22, a senior economics major at Columbia University, who was sitting on the steps of the library with his friends.

“I was supposed to be in London for study abroad this semester, so I probably would’ve gone someplace close to there for spring break — maybe in southern Europe,” said New York University sophomore Aliyah Verdiner, 20, a business major from Brooklyn. “That would’ve been a lot of fun, but I guess not this year.”

Some students, however, are being more adventurous. Rumors on campus abound about students who are exploiting loopholes and getting vaccinated against COVID in order to party and go on spring break.

“She’s going skiing in Vermont with a bunch of friends,” Aliza Abusch-Magder said of her roommate, whom she declined to name. “She’s very excited to be going to parties and — how do I say this? — making up for lost time in quarantine.”

Abusch-Magder said her roommate was “calling on something in her medical history that doesn’t actually affect her day-to-day, to qualify for the vaccine.” Other young people shared similar reports, such as of peers getting vaccinated who had asthma in their past but not their present.

 

“I just don’t think it’s ethical,” said Abusch-Magder, a first-year English major from Atlanta. But she also expressed doubt that such behavior is widespread at Columbia.

“I think here it’s an outlier, and I think at some schools it’s standard,” she said, echoing what she’d heard from high school friends on other campuses. “There’s a very high standard of ethics here, and there’s a lot of discourse on it.”

It’s impossible to know how often college students are getting vaccinated. Rumors about it happening illegitimately are widespread, but most of the stories appear to be secondhand. And many aren’t so nefarious on closer examination, because some vaccinated students are actually eligible; they work in labs or health care settings, or they have underlying health issues that put them at high risk for severe COVID.

“I put in my height. I put in my weight. And it said I was obese,” said Shira Michaeli, who was sitting on the Columbia library steps, “attending” an online lecture on human rights on her laptop. Obesity qualifies you for early vaccination in at least 29 states.

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