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Ahead of New Mass. Vaccine Eligibility, Some Undergraduates Already Qualified for Vaccinations

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Ahead of Covid-19 vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts opening to all residents 16 years and older on Monday, a number of Harvard students have secured their doses in alternative ways, from qualifying for an earlier phase to getting their hands on a leftover dose.

Harvard, in line with other Boston-area colleges, has not yet administered any vaccines to students. Consistent with its statements throughout the semester, Harvard University Health Services said in its latest email update Friday that it has “received a very limited supply of vaccine” with no expectation of additional doses from the state in the near future.

HUHS directed students to pre-register as eligibility expands Monday and “seek all other available sources” for receiving their vaccines.

Roman Ugarte ’24 has had his eye on getting vaccinated since returning to Cambridge. He said he read about somebody who obtained extra doses that would otherwise go to waste from vaccine clinics.

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“It just kind of made my blood boil a little bit,” Ugarte said. “I just figured it’d be worth taking a chance and going forward and seeing if there’s an opportunity to be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

He found success by driving 40 minutes with two roommates to a hospital in Peabody for its first day of vaccinations in late January, where after leaving his information with the receptionist, he received a lucky call from the hospital saying it had exactly three leftover doses.

Ugarte added that he felt “a little bit of guilt” for getting vaccinated before groups he deemed as “definitely more worthy.”

“While I didn’t take a vaccine away from anyone, just the sequencing feels a little weird,” he said.

As part of Phase Two of the state’s rollout, vaccine eligibility extended to certain essential workers, including Ellen S. Hwang ’24, who works at the Playa Bowls in Harvard Square.

Hwang, who received her first dose three weeks ago at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, said the state did a “pretty okay job” at prioritizing essential workers, though she felt her thyroid condition should have been on the list of qualifying medical conditions.

That condition made serving customers “nerve-wracking” as the weather grew warmer and the lines longer, Hwang said.

“It’s nice to be able to have both doses before having to move home,” she said. “When I get home, I don’t have to worry about finding a dosage.”

Aaron G. Eudaimon ’24 received his first dose of the vaccine through the Department of Defense as a member of the Navy ROTC. To ensure cadets like Eudaimon can safely undergo training during the summer, the Naval Academy moved to start vaccinating all midshipmen by the last week of March.

Eudaimon received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine on March 22 and will receive his second dose on Monday.

“Mostly people ask me ‘Where’d you get your dose from?’” Eudaimon said. “I just tell them, ‘It’s a little complicated. If you want to join the Navy, then you can get vaccinated.’”

Other students became eligible for the vaccine early this month for having a qualifying medical condition.

For Matthew R. Cabot ’24, the news that he could qualify the vaccine as a former smoker came as a surprise. Two-and-a-half weeks after pre-registering, Cabot received his first dose on Friday.

Though he said he believes there was a “perfectly valid reason” for its placement, he felt like he was “abusing the system” or “cheating in a way.”

“It was kind of like a relief to get the first part of the vaccine,” Cabot said. “One step closer to the whole pandemic being over and going back to being somewhat normal.”

Domenic A. Caturello ’22-’23 said he felt a similar relief after booking his appointment to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Because Caturello has asthma, he hurried to book an appointment when individuals with one medical condition became eligible for the vaccine on April 5.

“I was worried because already on basically a daily basis, I have issues with breathing often,” Caturello said. “So I said it wouldn’t have been so great for me if I got Covid, which I never contracted thankfully. But if I did, I thought it would be a particularly severe case.”

Caturello also helped book his parents’ vaccine appointments for early March. They are both former smokers, he said, which qualified them for early vaccination. Caturello noted that the smoking qualification, however, seemed too broad.

Caturello said he believes one reason the state may not be strictly defining every qualification is because the vaccine will eventually go into the arm of every individual in Massachusetts.

“It’s not like it’s crucial that we vaccinate every person in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from most vulnerable to least vulnerable, because at the end of the day, everybody should be vaccinated,” Caturello said. “So when a couple of people slip through the cracks, it’s just not a big deal because they were going to get vaccinated anyway in two weeks.”

—Staff writer Claire H. Guo can be reached at claire.guo@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @clairehguo.

—Staff writer Christine Mui can be reached at christine.mui@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MuiChristine.

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