Georgetown University will punish first and second-year medical students who received COVID-19 vaccines despite being ineligible.
Currently, only third and fourth-year students who interact with patients in the health care setting qualify to receive vaccines as a “health care worker,” which is one of the categories now eligible to get a vaccine in Washington, D.C. Vaccines are being administered through providers authorized by the District of Columbia Department of Health. Neither Georgetown nor MedStar Health authorized the vaccination for the first and second-year students who were not working in a health care setting, according to a university spokesperson. The university did not release information on where or how many ineligible medical students received vaccinations.
The ineligible medical students who received vaccinations broke with Georgetown’s moral standards, according to a university spokesperson.
“These actions run contrary to Georgetown’s values as a Jesuit institution, teaching our students to be in service to others,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The School of Medicine takes violations of professionalism extremely seriously and will be taking appropriate action as outlined in its Code of Professionalism in the Student Handbook.”
For students enrolled in professional doctoral programs, an adjudication committee can recommend sanctioning actions if a student is found responsible for professional misconduct to the dean of the student’s program, according to the graduate student bulletin.
The disciplinary actions from the university are, in part, meant to discourage other students from receiving vaccines who are not yet eligible, according to Karli Gilbert (GRD ’23), treasurer of Georgetown’s Medical Center Graduate Student Organization.
“I believe that the university’s decision to discipline the students is partially to send a strong warning message against any other students, medical or otherwise, who may be inspired to receive the vaccine themselves prior to their time of eligibility,” Gilbert wrote in an email to The Hoya.
An anonymous letter written by a medical student that was addressed to Georgetown urges the university to carefully consider the actions taken by the first and second-year medical students who received the vaccine while ineligible. The university must also examine the access to resources and health care in D.C. that caused this issue to occur in the first place, according to the letter.
“Now, the first and second year student bodies are divided on how to proceed after this blatant disregard for professionalism, with many calling for leniency, and again I am at a loss that the high standards for our profession are being impugned by medical students who have decidedly pursued their own interests,” the letter reads.
The situation of first and second-year students who were ineligible receiving vaccines suggests that a broader issue with vaccine distribution at the medical center exists, according to Gilbert.
“The fact that our medical students felt compelled to receive a vaccination not yet meant for them may hint at a larger systemic issue at GUMC,” Gilbert wrote. “If our students were receiving adequate support and safety mechanisms instituted by Georgetown to feel safe during this pandemic, then the flawed vaccine distribution method may not have been challenged in the first place.”
Despite actions that the university has taken to bar ineligible students from receiving the vaccine in the future, Georgetown urges anyone who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine to pursue receiving one, according to Provost Robert Groves.
“We urge any member of the Georgetown community who is eligible to be vaccinated to take advantage of vaccination opportunities provided through your healthcare provider, or state or local government,” Groves wrote.