While students await word from Deerfield about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, some faculty members have already started the vaccination process. The order in which the faculty members receive the vaccine depends entirely on how the state of Massachusetts is distributing it.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have decided on phases and groups in which people will be vaccinated. On February 18, the state moved to phase two group two, which includes people over the age of sixty-five or with two or more health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Currently, about fifty to seventy Deerfield faculty members fall under this category. General K-12 faculty fall under the third group in phase two.
While not everyone has yet qualified for the restrictions, many adults in the Deerfield community have already been vaccinated including the health center staff, athletic trainers, and the safety and security staff.
Originally, Deerfield hoped to become a vaccination center where both Deerfield faculty and all the school employees from the county could be vaccinated. However, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts controls the distribution process and has decided on two testing centers near the Academy: the Community Health Center in Greenfield and the old Channing Bete headquarters in Deerfield.
There are currently three approved vaccines, Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. The first two both require two doses while the latter is a one-dose vaccine that was recently approved. The main difference between the two dose vaccines is that Pfizer must be stored -70 degrees Celsius. The testing centers near Deerfield both use the Moderna vaccine as it is easier to store safely.
Director of Nursing Kate Rolland received her first shot in January and then her second dose four weeks later. She, along with all the other employees at the health center, had to fill out a questionnaire about medical history and other health related questions and sign up for a specific time slot. Rolland said that “unlike other appointments where you could cancel, you absolutely had to go in at a certain time.”
After receiving the vaccine, Rolland experienced some side effects including headaches, a low-grade fever, and body aches all over, typical symptoms reported in the clinical trials. Every nurse in the D.S. Chen Health Center, except two part-time nurses, have also been vaccinated and reported similar side effects. When asked about how her life has changed, Rolland said, “Nothing much because I’m still following all the proper masking protocol but anxiety went down a lot because I stopped worrying as much about infecting my loved ones.”
The entire Safety and Security staff has also received their vaccinations. They qualify under the first responders category and were all vaccinated at the Community Health Center in Greenfield. Officer Christopher MacDougall experienced a “sore arm shortly after [the] vaccine and later that same night I felt fatigued with a low-grade fever and headache.” However, after about 24 hours he felt completely fine and back to normal. It provided “a bit of peace of mind because security is in contact with everyone on campus and getting vaccinated was important for my well-being, as well as my family’s” said Officer MacDougall. But even after obtaining the vaccine, he continues to stay safe and follows all the safety protocols.
Chief Financial Officer Keith Finan currently oversees the vaccination process and has been trying to figure out the logistics of getting everyone vaccinated while handling state restrictions. To get vaccinated, each person must individually sign up on an online website for a slot. He compared the vaccination sign-up process to “having to go online and try to get tickets for a popular concert.”
A few weeks ago, Deerfield conducted a survey about feelings towards COVID-19 vaccination and received about 200 responses from faculty and staff. Mr. Finan reported that “88% said they can’t wait to be vaccinated or definitely going to get vaccinated.”
The original goal was to have all the faculty vaccinated by the first or second week of February. As of now, the revised goal is for everyone to receive their first shot by the beginning of the spring term.