Two U.S. vaccine trials have reported success rates of over 90% this past week. As COVID-19 cases spike with approximately 11 million total nationwide, the possibility of a vaccine is unbelievably reassuring.

Even if the vaccine passes Phase 3 testing, the distribution process will be gradual and will likely differ from state to state. For Wisconsin students, university vaccination decisions could be crucial to determine normalcy in Fall 2021.

According to the Associated Press, this will be the “biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history.” Of 11 vaccines in late trials globally, four trials are in the United States. Pfizer and Moderna are the two companies making headlines this week, which means multiple vaccines could circulate at the same time.

UW Health is also resuming work on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which had been paused for safety concerns but is clear to continue development.

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Both Pfizer and Moderna have promised 20 million vaccines to be available if they are approved for emergency distribution, which would mean 40 million Americans could be vaccinated.

However, the U.S. population is over 328 million, with 18 million of those being healthcare workers and over 46 million elderly. Certain populations will gain priority for vaccination, including in Wisconsin.

Long-term care workers, elderly citizens and essential workers  — including people working in the healthcare industry — will be among the first to gain access to the COVID vaccine in Wisconsin.

According to News8000, “the plan will be implemented in partnership with the state’s 97 local health departments and tribal jurisdictions, along with local providers and organizations. The state is determining its ability to contract for mass vaccination capacity to supplement local resources.”

The vaccine will not be required but rather highly suggested to Wisconsinites, and supplies will be free to healthcare providers.

The administrations of Pfizer and Moderna could come as early as late December. Dr. Fauci suggested that non-vulnerable Americans will not have access to the vaccine until late spring and summer. This includes most college-age students.

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In terms of salvaging the 2021 spring Semester, it is looking bleak. We will likely repeat a semester consisting of a mostly online schedule with limited activities available on campus.

While UW students prioritize the health and safety of loved ones first, it is still upsetting to invest in a college education that does not produce maximum utility. If most Americans gain access to the vaccine by mid-summer and results continue to be promising, however, Badgers may be able to tailgate football games and sit in large lecture halls for the fall.

Once vaccines are readily available to non-vulnerable college students, I suggest the University makes this a required vaccination.

By nature, college student life is crowded. From dorms and dining halls to athletic events, students can usually expect flu-like symptoms upon returning to campus each semester. College students are also extremely busy, and without a requirement, may not seek out a vaccination. It would be careless to allow further spikes in cases after the vaccine is available to us.

Hospital and medical resources should be reserved for those who experience unavoidable harm. COVID outbreaks can be avoided on campus if students are required to get vaccinated, and I can only hope the University prioritizes this before we jeopardize another school year in Madison.

Emma Axelrod ([email protected]) is a junior studying political science and journalism.