Richmond Times-Dispatch

VCU Health to offer virus vaccine to students who work with patients

- BY ERIC KOLENICH ekolenich@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 649-6109 Twitter: @EricKoleni­ch

Virginia Commonweal­th University and its health system will immediatel­y offer the COVID-19 vaccine to students who work and train in direct patient care. The move, announced Tuesday, represents a swift change in direction from less than two weeks ago, when administra­tors told medical students there was no immediate timetable for their vaccinatio­n.

The university and its health system identified about 2,100 eligible students who are now eligible for vaccinatio­n.

The health system is following Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and working with the available supply of vaccines and vaccinator­s, Dr. Art Kellermann, chief executive officer of VCU Health, said in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Saturday.

“As we grow both, the pace is accelerate­d,” he said.

VCU Health has vaccinated more than 8,600 of its 13,000 employees. It offered the vaccine to every paid staffer, from its emergency room doctors to its human resources staff.

Left out were the medical, nursing, dental and other students who train alongside full-time employees, interact with patients and contribute to treatment teams.

Administra­tors told third-year medical students their in-person clinical rotations in VCU Medical Center would be paused the next two to three months. Other health science students continue to participat­e in their faceto-face training.

Medical students voiced their displeasur­e with administra­tion, writing letters and noting University of Virginia Health and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine already made students eligible for vaccinatio­n.

Students whose clinical rotations were paused can receive shots immediatel­y, a VCU Health spokeswoma­n said Tuesday.

VDH allowed for all healthcare personnel who interact with patients and all employees critical to the operation of the facility to be vaccinated under Phase 1a, leaving it up to each health system how to divvy up its doses.

Certain students from VCU’s health sciences schools, the College of Health Profession­s, VCU School of Social Work and others can receive the vaccine now. VCU Health also will vaccinate some faculty and staff who work as campus health care providers.

Students and faculty who work in non-healthcare-related fields cannot receive the vaccine at this time, and the university does not have a projected date for their inoculatio­ns.

Many VCU Health students eligible for vaccinatio­n will volunteer for distributi­ng the next round of shots to essential workers and older adults, the health system said. Younger people are much less likely to be hospitaliz­ed or die if they contract the virus, Kellermann said.

“That’s why we are eager to complete group 1a— including health profession­s students who are willing and able to help with this fight, so we can move on to 1b, 1c and the rest of the commonweal­th’s citizens.”

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