By Mary Kate McGrath - January 18, 2021
In December, preliminary data showed the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective, meaning the Food and Drug Administration could move forward with an emergency authorization and begin distributing the two-dose vaccine in the United States. Now, hospitals on college or university campuses are gearing up to facilitate COVID-19 vaccination, with these healthcare facilities, as well as medical students looking to give back, playing a key role in distributing the vaccine to individuals working in healthcare, high-risk individuals, essential workers, and eventually, the general public.
The coronavirus is continuing to surge across the United States, and in advance of the vaccine arriving in communities across the country, hospitals and other healthcare facilities began to assemble social-distancing compliant vaccine distribution sites.
The hospitals and healthcare facilities located on college campuses will help facilitate rollout in communities across the country, with large arenas, dormitories, or other large spaces being repurposed. Medical students have already stepped up to administer shots and provide other vital vaccination needs as well, with many early in their careers as physicians excited and proud to join the vaccination effort as part of their medical training.
The CDC has recommended phased rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for communities with a Phase 1a, Phase 1b, and Phase 1c framework. The first phase will be healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, and then provided there are enough resources, efforts will be expanded to include frontline workers (educators, grocery-store employees, firefighters, police, or others) as well as individuals over 65+ or those with serious medical conditions.
The agency also offered guidance for transitioning between vaccine phases, making considerations for if supply increases and exceeds demand within a population, or if there is a shortage of demand and supply.
Around the country, cases of COVID-19 are continuing to soar, especially with a new and more contagious variant of the virus detected in multiple states. In January, the United States was nearing 400,00 deaths from coronavirus, with an especially dire outlook in California where more than 3,600 deaths were announced in a week, as per the New York Times. Meanwhile, the country’s vaccination effort has been off to a slower start than initially anticipated, with three states, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, having the lowest rates of vaccination thus far reaching only 2% of residents.
Medical students are stepping up to join the unprecedented mass-inoculation effort, hoping to help administer millions of vaccines across the United States, according to AAMC. One medical student named Kelsey Wood at Albany Medical College in New York had never given an injection before joining fellow doctors-in-training to administer vaccines, but was eager to pitch in. “I felt like the people receiving the vaccine and the people administering it have agreed to be a team to fight this virus, despite any concerns,” Wood said. “I was just so grateful to be involved.”
Albany Medical School was far from the only higher education institution joining the vaccine distribution effort - medical students are mobilizing en masse, and though the exact number who will join the effort will depend on supply and demand as well as state and local regulations about who can administer injections, most are eager to help. One volunteer from Tulane University School of Medicine said students are eager to help frontline medical workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic, and vaccine distribution efforts are one way to give back even if students are in the early phases of their clinical experience. “We just know we are part of history,” she said.
Frontline care workers and congregate care settings remain the initial priority while the vaccine supply is limited. As vaccine rollout continues, local agencies, health departments, hospitals, local universities, and pharmacies will be required to work together. A vaccine distribution solution can be used facilitate coordination, optimization, and engagement based on community priorities. The crowd-sourced data will allow officials to better identify priority candidates, track distribution process, and provide instant official updates. The SMS Opt-in feature can also allow local residents being vaccinated to receive relevant updates regarding the experience before and after arriving on site.
As communities opt to leverage college or university healthcare resources to better facilitate vaccine rollout, the distribution tool can streamline communications between these organizations and state and local health officials.
Additionally, the tool can be used to identify and notify priority vaccine candidates, allowing distribution sites to respond in real-time to the supply and demand fluctuations. Hospitals administering the vaccine can also use the communication tool to follow-up with residents, using polling to evaluate vaccination status, areas of need, or elicit any additional information about side effects.
As communities transition between vaccine phases, this communication tool will continue to streamline inoculation process, build community partnerships with medical schools or other relevant agencies, and monitor vaccine success.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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