Campus will not be vaccination site; College to provide shuttles instead

Irene Loewenson

The College will not become a COVID-19 vaccination site, Vice President for Finance and Administration Fred Puddester announced in an email to students this morning.

Instead, the College will provide shuttles to vaccination sites in North Adams and Pittsfield for all students, as well as for any faculty or staff without personal transportation. The shuttles will begin running on Monday, April 19, the day that vaccine eligibility opens in Massachusetts to all those ages 16 and up.

The College had been discussing with Berkshire Health Systems and the Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) the possibility of setting up a vaccination site on campus, but its attempt did not pan out.

“We made the case that a campus site would be easier for people affiliated with Williams, but BHS has to operate within state public health guidelines that authorize specific sites, and are obligated to respect Governor Baker’s expectations for equitable vaccine distribution,” Puddester wrote. 

In an email to the College community this afternoon, Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische noted that “an on-campus location would have pulled vaccine doses out of the county program and effectively pushed our folks to the front of the line ahead of our neighbors.” 

“That didn’t seem right,” he wrote.

Puddester acknowledged that “this outcome is less than ideal in terms of ease of access.” But he stressed that the sites in North Adams and Pittsfield are projected to have “significant numbers of appointments per day for a population of our size.” The two sites are expected to have doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna vaccines, according to Puddester.

Puddester added that students will not be allowed to stay on campus past the end of the semester to receive a second vaccine dose. “If you start the process here and aren’t done by the end of May then you should make plans to get your second shot at your summer location,” he wrote.

The College will not provide transportation to vaccination sites in Albany, Springfield, Boston, or other locations apart from those in North Adams and Pittsfield. Puddester noted, however, that the College will generally give students permission to travel for a vaccine “as long as the round trip can be completed in one day, with no stops or overnights, and as long as the student either drives alone or only with a family member or podmate.” For the next few weeks, this rule may be especially applicable for students from New York and Connecticut, which have both opened vaccine eligibility to all residents above the age of 16.

Puddester also wrote that vaccinated people must continue to adhere to the College’s COVID rules, which include masking, social distancing, and size limits on gatherings. Vaccinated people must still get tested through the College’s testing program. Fully vaccinated students will, however, be exempt from going into quarantine if they are determined to be close contacts with someone who tests positive, Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom told the Record in March.

Massachusetts residents over the age of 55 and those with one medical condition that heightens the risk of serious COVID illness became eligible on April 5. Vaccination appointments can be made through the Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative’s website or through the state’s vaccine sign-up page.