Starting Wednesday, March 24, NC State will begin vaccinating people who have preregistered Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m in Talley Student Union. NC State will first vaccinate students and staff who are at least 65 years old, have medical conditions and are classified as group one under the University’s “Return to Campus/Spring Refresh” plans.
The vaccines are free and available to all students and staff. Students and staff can register through a link provided by NC State, where they will enter their health information. This information determines what group a person belongs to and when they can be scheduled for their vaccine appointment. After a person has received their shot, they will be monitored for 15 minutes to detect any severe reactions.
According to Student Health Interim Pharmacy Manager Lauren Watkins, approximately 12,000 people preregistered for vaccine appointments. As of Monday, March 22, Dr. Julie Casani, director of Student Health, said the University hopes to vaccinate up to 300 people per day.
“We are excited about that number, a little overwhelming, but we’re excited about it,” Casani said.
Watkins said she has been working on a team within Student Health, along with Casani, to bring vaccine distribution to campus since late December.
“Basically, my job has been to help behind the scenes, kind of pull things together, figure out the vaccine preparation side of things,” Watkins said. “So, the pharmacy is taking a large part in the storage and preparation of the vaccine, and we’re kind of working together as a university to do the registrations and make sure everybody gets the vaccine appropriately.”
According to Watkins, members of the team went to the UNC-Chapel Hill Friday Center last month to learn about the inner workings of large-scale vaccination locations. Currently, Student Health receives a different number of allocated first doses from the state each week. According to Watkins, the University received 600 first-dose vaccines this week. Second doses automatically ship from the manufacturer after first doses, so they are not included in varying weekly allocations.
Casani said the University can confirm a person’s age or employment status, but they do not require someone to show proof of a medical condition.
“We’re trusting that people will tell the truth,” Casani said. “Ultimately, we’re getting everyone vaccinated, so I don’t think that people need to push ahead.”
Medical conditions that would put a person in the priority group include diseases and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease and other immunocompromised illnesses.
Casani said that NC State will be receiving the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, she said students and staff will not be able to choose what type of vaccine they will receive.
“The reason is because we want people to get vaccinated with whatever vaccine we have, and we are allocated by the state,” Dr. Casani said. “We don’t have a choice of what vaccines we get allocated to us.”
Watkins agreed with Casani, saying vaccination is important in the process to reopen campus and the world as a whole.
“Quite frankly, … the best way for us to get back to some sense of normalcy is to get whichever vaccine’s available,” Watkins said. “The trials have been good.”
Casani said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both require two doses and provide around 90% protection against COVID-19, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dosage and provides between 70%-80% coverage. Despite the difference in coverage, Casani said all vaccines provide strong protection against severe symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states the Pfizer vaccine can only be taken by those 16 and older and people must wait three weeks before receiving the second dose. The CDC also states the Moderna vaccine can be taken by people 18 or older and those with their first dose must wait four weeks to receive their second dose. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also administered to people 18 years old and above.
After getting the vaccine, some people may experience some symptoms including chills, soreness and tiredness. However, it is possible for a person to not experience any symptoms.
While the vaccine is not mandatory for students and staff to return to campus, Casani said she highly recommends receiving it to create herd immunity, even if a person has already been infected. According to Casani, about 80% of people need to either have natural immunity or have been vaccinated to create this herd immunity.
“We think that...about 80% of people need to either have natural immunity or have been vaccinated,” Casani said. “We tell people who had an infection to get vaccinated because we’re not 100% sure how long immunity lasts, and we feel more comfortable with the length of immunity after a vaccine.
Casani said NC State is aware some students are worried they won’t be near campus to receive their second dosage of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Casani said NC State is creating a plan to ensure all students will be fully vaccinated before the semester ends.
According to Watkins, accessibility is another main goal of offering vaccinations on campus, so they will be available to those in student housing or nearby.
“I feel like the hope of everyone who’s been involved in this is just to offer accessible vaccination in a very centralized location that is accessible to our entire campus community, whether that’s students, faculty, staff,” Watkins said. “I feel like, regardless of who we’re talking about, our goal is to offer accessible care for the campus community and to do it in an area that is very convenient for them to get to on our campus.”
Certain counties have experienced a surplus of vaccinations. While Casani doesn’t believe NC State will experience a surplus, she acknowledges the possibility of people canceling or not showing up for their appointments. Since vaccines have to be used by a certain date, they would call people on a list or ask people outside of Talley Student Union to receive their shots.
Casani said NC State received a grant of between $350,000 - $500,000 from the federal program to vaccinate students and staff. Since NC State received the vaccines for free, the money will be spent on supplies and personnel.