Michael Liu | Staff Photographer
Many Pitt students waited in line for hours this past Tuesday, hoping to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The news spread like wildfire that morning that Spartan Pharmacy had opened a vaccine clinic in Oak Hill, the neighborhood next to West Oakland, and just a short walk from campus. The line was hundreds of people long at times, and most students were not prepared for the wait and were without water, food or a full phone charge for almost five hours.
The original purpose of the Oak Hill vaccine clinic seemed to be to vaccinate the majority Black community in Pittsburgh’s Oak Hill and Hill District neighborhoods. But it had extra shots and as the word spread, Pitt students began to flood the clinic. Although Spartan Pharmacy expressed gratitude towards Pitt students for coming out and getting vaccinated, this distracts from the larger issues of medical gentrification, and the fact that Pitt students often do not think about the impact of their actions on the City in which they live. The Oak Hill vaccination clinic is a perfect case study of everything wrong with Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout.
Vaccines should theoretically be available at local pharmacies, and then at designated vaccine sites. But when one searches for vaccines in the area, often the closest clinics aren’t close at all, and are far beyond the reach of anyone within the City, resident and student alike, who does not have access to a car. The desperation to get a shot has people scrambling to look online for pop-up vaccination clinics or leftover doses at the end of the day. The Oak Hill vaccination clinic was the perfect opportunity for many Pitt students to get vaccinated when they may have had to wait several more weeks if not a few months to get a shot.
Many students had to skip class to wait in line for approximately five hours to get a shot, and this brings to mind all the people who are not able to drop what they are doing and spend nearly half their day waiting for a vaccine. Many people do not have the time to be sitting on Reddit or Facebook looking for a stray post talking about extra vaccines somewhere. The current pace and execution of vaccine rollout in Pennsylvania clearly leave low-income families out of the picture, especially when people seem to be expected to pop out of the woodwork to get a vaccine, when they may not have child care during the day or may not be able to take off from work for five hours in the middle of the day to stand in line.
Pennsylvania’s criteria for different phases of vaccine rollout are confusing for many, and the rollout’s timeline was only clarified just this week. Until Gov. Tom Wolf addressed the issue, many people were unaware that past smokers are eligible for phase 1A due to impaired lung function from any sort of smoking. Certain medications one might be taking make one eligible for Phase 1A as well, but fine print reading is required to find that information out.
Getting a vaccine is the best thing an individual can do to build up herd immunity, and college students are eager to do so, especially to get back to work and school after having been left out of the first stimulus check. The vaccine rollout and distribution needs to be streamlined and more accessible so Pittsburghers and Pennsylvanians can get vaccinated in a far more straightforward way.