The Buffalo News

Campus clinics race to vaccinate students before they head home

Blitzes aim to enable full in-person classes in fall

- By Samantha Christmann

Now that the Covid-19 vaccine is open to people ages 16 and older, colleges are working hard to get students vaccinated before the semester comes to a close. And instead of leaving students to hunt down their own doses at sites scattered across the state, schools are bringing the shots to them with vaccine clinics on campus.

Schools have been preparing for months, working with state and local agencies and getting systems, staff and technology in place to make vaccines available on campus as soon as the state allowed.

They are hoping that the vaccinatio­n blitzes will allow students to resume full in-person instructio­n by the fall, while also protecting communitie­s as students head back home for the summer. In addition to the convenienc­e factor, bringing vaccines to where students are removes such barriers as lack of transporta­tion and keeps students from having to compete with the community at large for their shots, school officials said.

Students at SUNY Buffalo State have been “very responsive” to campus vaccinatio­n efforts, said Tim Gordon, vice president of student affairs. The school received a thousand doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week

and is on track to administer all of them by Wednesday. The school will offer more vaccines as they become available, it said.

Appointmen­ts are scheduled in staggered, 10-minute intervals to minimize crowding in the student union social hall, where vaccines are being given by the school’s health center staff. Volunteers help students register and fill out paperwork and make sure everyone is adhering to social distancing and other safety protocols. Students are monitored for 15 minutes after receiving their shot and are given informatio­n on how to follow up if they have any problems.

“It helps us continue on a path to more stability, but then it also gives them that protective layer as they return to communitie­s after they’re done with the semester,” Gordon said.

Buffalo State’s urban setting and diverse student population make it a prime candidate to serve inner-city population­s as well, he said, because many of its students come from urban areas.

“At the outset, we indicated our willingnes­s to make sure we help contribute to equity in vaccinatio­n,” Gordon said.

Canisius College began administer­ing its 400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Sunday. Once the school announced that vaccines were available, appointmen­t slots filled up within three hours, said Sara Morris, vice president for academic affairs. She is encouraged by the number of faculty and staff that have already been vaccinated, and said the school community seems to understand that vaccinatio­n will “make all the difference” in ending the pandemic and getting back to normal.

“The campus activities, the events we all look forward to, our Griff Fest, our Fall Fest, having spectators at our sporting events,” Morris said. “Being able to do some of those activities safely again is going to allow students to fully enjoy the college experience we want to give them.”

The University at Buffalo has 200 Johnson & Johnson doses to offer and will begin administer­ing them Thursday, according to John DellaContr­ada, a UB spokespers­on. The school will notify students this week about its scheduling process and expects a strong response. About 2,300 students have already notified the school that they have been vaccinated elsewhere, he said.

No worry over J&J vaccine

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has encountere­d a spate of bad press in recent days. The company had to scrap millions of doses after its Baltimore plant mixed up ingredient­s. In addition, the Georgia Department of Public Health halted use of the vaccine after eight people experience­d adverse reactions. Vaccine sites in North Carolina and Colorado stopped using the vaccine because of reactions, too, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the vaccine is safe.

So do the Buffalo schools.

“Our infectious disease faculty advise that the J&J vaccine is safe and effective; and the fact that it is a one-dose vaccine is an advantage in this scenario because there are just five weeks left in the semester,” said DellaContr­ada.

None of the three schools has heard from students worried about the brand of vaccine, they said.

“We have been very upfront that this is what the vaccine is and we have not had anyone who has expressed concern,” said Morris.

At Buffalo State, where vaccinatio­ns are already in full swing, no complicati­ons have been reported, Gordon said.

Vaccinatio­n not mandatory

The schools have not required students to receive the vaccine before returning for the fall semester, but Covid-19 pool testing will still be mandatory. Students may also be asked, via the same electronic systems they use to fill out daily health questionna­ires, whether they have been vaccinated.

Schools said they expect the majority of students to vaccinate voluntaril­y, so herd immunity can be reached without mandating vaccinatio­n.

“We’re really encouraged by the number of people in our community – our faculty, staff and students – who are trying to get the vaccine,” Morris said. “A lot of people are very excited to get it.”

 ?? Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News ?? Julia Barth, left, a journalism and political science sophomore from Tonawanda, receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Lisa Rowley, a nurse at the student health center, on Sunday at Canisius College.
Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News Julia Barth, left, a journalism and political science sophomore from Tonawanda, receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Lisa Rowley, a nurse at the student health center, on Sunday at Canisius College.
 ?? Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News ?? Morgan Morris, a sociology and communicat­ions senior from Buffalo, waits the required 15 minutes after getting her vaccine at Canisius College on Sunday.
Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News Morgan Morris, a sociology and communicat­ions senior from Buffalo, waits the required 15 minutes after getting her vaccine at Canisius College on Sunday.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA