Should students travel out-of-state for COVID-19 vaccines?

Connor McNamara

Americans are finally receiving vaccines. The new presidential administration’s promise of 100 million doses delivered in the first 100 days has already been met, and pushed to 200 million doses instead. According to The New York Times, distribution has jumped to 2.7 million shots administered per day, and that number is still climbing. We may see 90% of the population at least partially vaccinated by the middle of summer.

But states still vary wildly in their rollout of the shots. Virginia, for example, is operating in Phase 1c. According to the Virginia Department of Health website, this means people 16-65 with underlying health conditions, people over 65 and essential workers can sign up to get a vaccine.

However, just a few hours south of us, North Carolina is rapidly approaching an expansion of eligibility requirements. According to CBS, on April 7 the state will open vaccinations to anyone over the age of 16. College students in a neighboring state will begin to receive shots while most of us at Washington and Lee are still waiting. This leaves us with the natural question: is it okay to travel outside of Virginia to get a vaccine?

The moral dilemma here is complex. By receiving a shot, no matter where you get it, you are increasing the number of people in the country who are inoculated. Getting as many people vaccinated as possible helps the nation move toward herd immunity, and toward returning to normal life. Furthermore, you individually will be less of a risk to your friends and family. Especially here, on a college campus where social distancing can be difficult, it could help protect many others from COVID-19.

But do the risks outweigh the rewards? Traveling at this time is unwise, even within your area. Traveling across state lines is even more so, and could put you and others in danger. Perhaps even more significant is the problem of equity of distribution. 

The people who can most easily travel are most often those at least risk for contracting the virus. According to, cornovarius-related deaths are much higher proportionally in indigenous and Black populations — populations much more affected by this nation’s economic inequality. Those who are fortunate enough to be able to travel to get a vaccine may be taking it from those who need it most.

It is difficult to reconcile these concerns. However, as states continue to diverge in rollout and more students feel the desire to travel to get the vaccine, I believe there are certain guidelines we can follow. 

First, no one should lie in order to elevate their spot on the list. Second, you should only travel to either your home state or to an area in Virginia. To keep risk as low as possible, you should not travel to a state you do not reside in.

Bottom line is: wait your turn. There should be enough supply for everyone to get the vaccine before we return to campus in the fall. The plan is working so far, but we must be patient and cognizant of the needs of others.