Thursday, February 2, 2023

UNCW achieves vaccination approval, eager to offer students shots

UNCW will soon establish a Covid-19 vaccination clinic at the Burney Center on campus. University officials said the clinic will open this month, and the top priority will be administering doses to the campus population. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON – UNCW obtained approvals from the state to act as a vaccination provider, clearing the path for the university to eventually administer shots to its student population. 

Katrin Wesner-Harts, an interim associate vice chancellor and the university’s top health official, said she has confidence the clinic will open in the month of March. 

“The clinic will operate in Burney Center by appointment only, will initially serve the UNCW campus community and may expand its mission in the future,” the university announced Thursday. 

Officials working for the N.C. Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) will conduct a site visit at the UNCW Burney Center next week, Wesner-Harts said. 

UNCW’s vaccination approval comes shortly after Gov. Roy Cooper accelerated the entry of frontline essential workers into the vaccination queue. All UNCW professors who work in person can now receive shots of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Read More: Cooper opens vaccines to all frontline essential workers Wednesday, expands into Group 4 by end of March

Cooper also foreshadowed the impending eligibility of Group 4 — people with high risk conditions and adults living in congregate settings — on March 24. The second phase of Group 4 introduces college students.

“We’re primarily going to do — especially when we get to Group 4 — our residential students,” Wesner-Harts said. “We certainly are able to do the community, and certainly are willing to do that.” 

While UNCW could potentially vaccinate eligible individuals unaffiliated with the university, handling its campus population will allow other vaccine providers to focus on other populations. 

According to an internal email sent from a NCDPS official, regarding the decision to move forward with planning a vaccination clinic on UNCW’s campus: “It is the goal of the vaccination planning team to ensure that the UNCW clinic be as self-sufficient as possible with no impacts to the local governments.” 

A spokesperson for New Hanover County said team members have offered assistance if needed. 

“It is our understanding that the state is assisting with set up and operations, so our team has not had a lot of involvement at this point,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. 

A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) said the department sets up vaccine allocations, while the NCDPS will handle the logistical groundwork for site approvals. A staff member with NCDPS communications forwarded inquiries to the NCDHHS.

Nathan Grove, a chemistry professor and president of the UNCW Faculty Senate, said many employees already received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine regimen. After Cooper’s announcement this week, New Hanover Regional Medical Center began vaccinating frontline essential workers at the Pointe movie theater, while New Hanover County opted to continue focusing on inoculating senior citizens. 

Read More: With frontline workers eyeing vaccines, New Hanover County needs more time to inoculate seniors

“I think within the next week-and-a-half or so, by the time the clinic is probably up and running, a lot of the faculty and staff will probably already have had their first shot if they want it,” Grove said. “Not everyone, but a good number will.” 

Wesner-Harts said she also heard many professors began the vaccination process. 

“I think it will make the most impact for the students, when we get to them theoretically starting on March 24,” Grove said. “I think that’s where the real bang for the buck will come in.”

In its announcement, the university said more details would be released soon. 

“An official clinic start date has not been finalized yet, and clinic operations are dependent on vaccine availability. Details on how to sign up for the vaccine and volunteer at the clinic will be forthcoming,” the announcement stated. “Please give us some time to work through the processes involved to establish the clinic.”

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