Hope for Nighthawks: UNG and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Chart illustrating the number of confirmed UNG COVID-19 cases since August 1st 2020

Chart illustrating the number of confirmed UNG COVID-19 cases since August 1st 2020

Life has been anything but normal since the announcement of the COVID-19 virus in March 2020. Now, almost a year later, the University of North Georgia has received its first shipment of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, already vaccinating 109 people.

Vaccines are distributed to the universities by the Georgia Department of Public Health. In order to gain approval for the vaccine, UNG had to meet certain regulations and complete a questionnaire to ensure that they could safely store and distribute the vaccine. Gregg Williams, the associate director of emergency preparedness at UNG, says, “Fortunately we have two health clinics, healthcare professionals, and already administer the flu vaccine so we were prepared to be a vaccine location.”  According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s official website  there have been 652,700 Moderna vaccines allocated throughout Georgia, but only 100 were allocated to UNG. These numbers have caused some frustration for Williams, “I would be interested to find out how that allotment occurred because if it was based on the census of the University then something’s off. Clayton State University, which has a smaller population than we do, received about 500. I’m sure there is a methodology to it. I just don’t know what that is.” Nurses were able to get 109 vaccines from the allotted 100 due to the vials being overfilled, but this still isn’t enough. UNG has requested 500 more vaccines for students and faculty that match the first phase requirements, but it’s a waiting game. Williams said, “We are working every avenue we can to try and get more vaccines, but hospitals are saying the same. The state just doesn’t have enough.”

Vaccine clinics can only be found on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses because the health clinics are located at these campuses. However, any UNG student or faculty can register for the vaccine no matter their home campus. The system used for registration was made by UNG’s own staff of Student Affairs and has worked well. For the first round of vaccines over 400 people accessed UNG’s appointment system. Williams says, “It’s a home grown system. We didn’t overbook, we made just as many appointments as we did vaccines, and have made an effective wait list.” When more shipments of the vaccine arrive Williams said that the Dahlonega campus will hold clinics on Thursdays, and the Gainesville campus will hold them on Wednesdays. The process for vaccination is streamlined as well. After checking into the vaccination clinic, there is a socially distanced waiting room where patients fill out a questionnaire for the healthcare professionals, then patients are called back to receive the vaccine. After receiving the vaccine patients are then moved to an observation area for 15-30 minutes to ensure there were no complications or reactions to the vaccine. The amount of time varies between patients depending on their health status. After the observation period, patients then move to a check out area where they are given the time and place for their second dose. Luckily none of the 54 people on the Dahlonega campus, nor 55 on the Gainesville campus who received the vaccine had any complications, but if they did there were epi pens and healthcare professionals at the ready.

 Students and faculty have come together to ensure the safety of others, but it doesn’t end in the classroom, all of the workers helping to administer the vaccine have their own jobs to worry about. Both the nursing faculty and students have stepped up to help, shifting their schedules to attend these clinics. Williams says that if there is one thing students should know about COVID-19 it’s, “Be conscious of self reporting and take this seriously, social distancing is key: maintain six feet and wear your mask.”

If you are curious about your eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine or how to register please refer to the links below.