Amid a surge in N.C.’s vaccine supply, college campuses are among newer providers added to the vaccination landscape. All adults will be able to schedule appointments in less than two weeks, and at some universities, students have already flocked to recently established clinics.
UNCW served 300 inaugural shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in its Burney Center Thursday. Appointments were filled on a first-come, first-served basis after an email advertising the shots was sent to all students, faculty and staff. UNCW estimated around 200 shots went to students, with the rest going to faculty and staff.
The UNCW site was established to run independently of the vaccination apparatus helmed by the New Hanover County government. Katrin Wesner-Harts, the university’s top health official, said the clinic will serve UNCW community members only, at least at the outset.
“We’re primarily going to do — especially when we get to Group 4 — our residential students. We certainly are able to do the community, and certainly are willing to do that,” Wesner-Harts previously told Port City Daily. “But the biggest benefit UNCW provides to the community, is by taking our population off of the rest of the community so that they can focus on others.”
The arrival of vaccines on UNCW’s campus comes during a week in which the university diagnosed nearly 50 cases of the novel coronavirus.
Testing is exponentially more widespread this semester than it was last autumn. Following the purchase of 100,000 Covid-19 rapid antigen tests, UNCW’s testing volume in a single day has surpassed that of weeks worth of testing last fall. While UNCW hoped to utilize approximately 6,500 rapid tests per week in its surveillance testing program, the initiative has typically yielded between 2,500 and 3,500 completed tests per week.
Elsewhere across N.C., public universities are springing to action. UNC-Chapel Hill will begin vaccinating students March 31. Students will be able to register for appointments online.
“At this time, we anticipate receiving 2,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine next week,” a UNC spokesperson wrote in an email. “The center will have the capacity to provide up to 2,000 doses per week, pending our allotment from the state. Once students are eligible, they can receive a vaccine at the Carolina Student Vaccination Clinic or any off-campus vaccination site.”
N.C. State University established a vaccination clinic March 24. This week the university was allocated 300 J&J doses and 300 Moderna doses. Appointments are advertised online.
“Our pre-registration process determines eligibility and we move through the wait list based on those responses,” an N.C. State spokesperson wrote in an email.
A UNC-Charlotte spokesperson wrote to Port City Daily: “The University is currently working on a plan to safely and efficiently assist students in the vaccination process and encourages all students to get vaccinated. More details will be announced soon.”
At East Carolina University, vaccination appointments were previously advertised with emails directed to eligible students, and now are made known to the entire student body. ECU received 300 J&J doses this week as well.
Chapel-Hill announced March 5 that university leaders were planning for a “more typical residential academic experience at Carolina, with the goal of a full return to in-person instruction.” UNCW and N.C. State followed suit, both releasing similar statements days later, positing a return to a “typical” and “normal” campus experience this coming fall.
Pushback and shifting federal guidance previously led to college students being demoted in the priority groups of N.C.’s vaccination plan. Original drafts of the vaccination strategy, dating back to November, show a four-phase approach. College students originally fell in Phase 3.
Later adaptations of the plan changed the design, with the four phases dropped in exchange for a new layout of five groups. University students living on campus were placed in the latter part of Group 4.
The 300 vaccination appointments made available at UNCW this week were filled in six minutes, according to WECT.
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