It has been over a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. and vaccine distribution is underway. Over 100 million people have been vaccinated nationally and the number continues to grow, according to the CDC. At the end of February, UE sent out a survey to students and employees about the potential for campus to become a vaccine clinic.
The Indiana State Department of Health reached out to numerous colleges about this possibility even though students were not eligible to get the vaccine. When Indiana started vaccine distribution, they like many other states, started with the elderly and health care workers due to their higher health and exposure risks. The CDC states that the 18 to 24-year-old age group contributes the most to COVID-19 transmission at 14 percent.
On March 26, UE sent out an email to students that anyone enrolled, regardless of home state or country, could get vaccinated through a partnership with Tri-State Community Clinics. This cut out the steps the university would need to take to become its own vaccine distributer, while still making strides towards a fully vaccinated campus community. To make vaccination even more accessible, UE provided students with group transportation to their appointments. This partnership also allowed students who aren’t Indiana residents to get vaccinated before going home for the summer.
“I think it is a great idea because we could possibly get vaccinated sooner, and I will be taking this opportunity so I can feel safer about being out in public and work,” Alley Metzger, a junior business management major, said. Universities like UE have many social, academic and health reasons to encourage students to get vaccinated, but obstacles to vaccine distribution go beyond demand and age restrictions.
Abraham Beidas receiving his vaccination
In a recent press conference, President Biden said that he would like every American to be vaccinated by May 1 of this year. But according to Dr. Angie Wooton, who works at the St. Vincent Vaccine Center, this is an overly ambitious goal compared to the resources currently available at clinics. “We do not have the capacity or special vaccine refrigeration. It has to have alarms, 24-hour supervision and even a special phone connection if the temperature drops too low,” Wooton said.
NPR released an article in February discussing the proponents of vaccine storage and why it could be a struggle. “As countries race — and struggle— to deliver mass inoculations in far-reaching corners of the globe, the most formidable challenge for political leaders and public health authorities face is this: how do you transport tiny vaccine vials thousands of miles, keeping them at temperatures colder than the Arctic winter,” NPR stated. It is difficult to determine a distribution timeline for something as temperamental as vaccines. They are being distributed all over the country, and some clinics lack the refrigeration or machinery to store and keep them cold.
With these struggles in mind, it was an effective choice for UE to partner with Tri-State Community Clinics, as the setting is better prepared to provide the necessary conditions for storage and resources for upkeep. Many students have already received their first dose because of this partnership.