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VSU becomes distribution center for COVID-19 vaccine

On Feb. 3, VSU students and faculty received an email regarding the campus becoming a distribution center for the COVID-19 vaccine starting next week. However, this doesn’t mean the vaccine will immediately be available to students.

Students may have noticed a survey immediately upon logging into MyVSU. The survey was created to determine and who does or doesn’t want to receive the vaccine.

Phase 1A+ includes those apart of the health services staff, VSU police department, counseling center, community therapy, nursing faculty and students in a clinical setting, athletics medical staff and trainers and those 65 years of age and older.

Phase 1B includes COVID-19 residential life, food delivery personnel, custodial and disinfecting personnel, education students who are student teaching for K-12 and all VSU employees.

Phase 1C includes students between the ages of 16 to 64 with a medical condition that increases their risk of severe COVID-19.

Phase 2 includes all VSU students. Being in phase 1A+, students can expect a wait on their turn for the vaccine.

Dr. Robert Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs, says the purpose of the phases is that there is a small fraction of doses compared to the number of Americans who could potentially be vaccinated.

“The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has recommended to all 50 states and the District of Columbia a tier system,” Dr. Smith said. “The state then, in turn, have made minor medications to that system, so currently GA is in tier 1A+.”

Dr. Vince Miller, vice president for student affairs, said the COVID-19 task force for VSU hope the vaccine will be available as soon as Monday, Feb. 8.

“The challenge is that all the vaccines are distributed through public health, so the lengthy process – even to be able to allow us to be a part of the process – is controlled by the public health,”  he said. “They allowed us to submit our order this week and were told we should receive them early next week.”

According to Dr. Miller, the uncertainty of not knowing the exact day VSU will receive the vaccine causes a challenge in scheduling appointments on campus.

Dr. Smith says the Department of Public Health (DPH) has received fewer doses than wanted.

“Here in Lowndes County, the Department of Public Health is distributing the vaccine as well as some pharmacies and South Georgia Regional Medical Center, and the Department of Public health started cancelling appointments a week and a half ago because they didn’t have enough vaccines,” he said.

Dr. Smith said the process is fluid and open, so the DPH can’t know what is going to happen until it happens.

VSU will be receiving both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine next week, according to VSU’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

VSU does not have control over when the phases begin or the amount of vaccine is received.

Dr. Miller says the Georgia Department of Public Health has an application through Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services (GRITS), which is the data base for vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There were a number of steps to be taken to verify we were a functioning facility, that we had the storage capacity, and our individuals were trained on distribution and handling the vaccine,” he said.

The application process had to be completed in order for VSU to be approved to distribute the vaccination, and it required those leading vaccination efforts to go through training and receive a certificate before submitting the application, according to Dr. Miller.

In order to carry out the vaccines, VSU had to have the proper, laboratory grade freezers to keep the vaccines in the right storage.

“They are specialty equipment that’s used in science and medical labs,” Dr. Miller said. “We probably invested $20,000 in that equipment.”

Dr. Miller said the federal government is providing relief funds for higher education institutions for COVID-19 management, so VSU is intending on submitting that expense for reimbursement.

The vaccine is free of charge for those at VSU.

Dr. Smith says it’s important to note that things are rapidly changing, and students should stay tuned for any changes and news.

Wyatt Brady, a junior public relations major, said it’s a good idea that VSU is becoming a distributer for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s really cool to go to a college that cares about the community and its students enough to take on such a big task,” Brady said. “I am excited to see how much VSU offering the vaccine helps the community.”

Social distancing, wearing masks and reporting cases is still important and required alongside the vaccine becoming available.

More information on the phases and scheduling can be found at https://www.valdosta.edu/health-advisory/covid-vaccines.php.

Written by Jonnie Brewer, Assistant Copy Editor. graphic courtesy of Bethany Davis, special to the Spectator .

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