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