After months of limited supply and appointments, the COVID-19 vaccines are more accessible than ever, especially with Mercyhurst hosting its second vaccination clinic of the semester.
Though a smaller clinic was held in late February, the supply was limited to those with health conditions or employment circumstances that put them at greater risk. Thanks to a partnership with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) fostered by former Mercyhurst employee and current LECOM vice president of External Affairs, Monsignor David Rubino, Ph.D., all students, faculty and staff were eligible to receive the vaccine.
“When he learned LECOM had received a grant that would enable them to start providing vaccinations, he contacted us and introduced us to Jim Caputo. Mr. Caputo is the person who was in charge of administering the vaccines program through the grant,” said vice president for Student Life, Laura Zirkle, Ph.D. “We worked closely with him and his team and have been able to offer two on-campus clinics as well as get many of our community members vaccinated off-campus at other clinics that they have been able to offer. It has been a great partnership and we are incredibly grateful for the vaccine opportunities that they have provided our community.”
Planning for the clinic began April 8 with the help of a committee of dedicated individuals including Zirkle; vice president for Enrollment, Joe Howard; associate Provost, Andrea Barnett; director of Marketing and Brand, Sean Cuneo; director of Athletic Training Services, Andy Simon-Wambach; assistant Athletic Director for Student Health/ Wellness, Sue Sweeney; Communication, Campaign and Web manager, Kyndra Zacherl and executive director of Campus Involvement, Sarah Allen.
While their planning certainly played a significant role in the success of the day, the impact of the volunteers who helped cannot be underscored.
“Our volunteers were essential to the success of this event. Our planning committee was only a handful of people, and when we were expecting 700+ attendees to be vaccinated, the eight of us could not possibly have run it alone,” said Zacherl. “Our 60+ volunteers were checking people in, assisting them with completing their paperwork, answering questions, helping upload documentation, giving instructions and doing anything else they could do to help.”
One such volunteer, freshman Dance and Public Health double major, Sophie Satoh, describes her help with the clinic.
“I volunteered because I really want people to have the ability to get the vaccine and I wanted to be a part of helping people who want the vaccine, get it,” said Satoh. “I was tasked with spacing out people in line to get their shot.”
Many volunteered for hours at a time.
Zirkle further detailed the numerous departments that helped to make the day run smoothly.
“A clinic this big pulled together in this short of a time period would not have been possible without broad community support. So many folks from all across campus helped make this possible,” said Zirkle. “Athletics took on the set up the night before and the tear down after it was over, in addition to working during the clinic. Faculty members worked different shifts, talked to students about signing up and in some cases even assisted those providing the shots. Student Life, Campus Ministry, Parkhurst and Aramark were out in force making sure the day ran smoothly, President NeCastro worked the vaccine line… and most importantly, the community showed to get vaccinated.”
In total, 741 students, faculty and staff received the provided Pfizer vaccine.
Though participants were encouraged to register for an appointment prior to the day’s event, an excess number of vaccines allowed for the clinic to take walk-ins.
“Around noon, we realized we would have extra doses and put the call out to the community for walkins. We had people coming from the dining hall, straight from athletics workouts or who were just walking by,” said Zacherl. “We did have to register these people and make space for them, but that was a good problem to have.”
By holding the clinic at this point in the year, students can receive both doses of the vaccine before the end of the semester, which ensures the health and safety of the communities to which students are returning. The second dose will be provided in early May.
As an added bonus, seniors who participated will have received their second dose in time for their in-person graduation.
“Holding the event was important to keeping our students, faculty and staff safe and well. This clinic puts us closer to having a ‘normal’ campus once more,” said Allen. “We all want to get back to socializing and seeing one another safely.”
The clinic for the second dose will occur in a similar fashion on May 4.
Though there are not any plans currently in the works for another first dose clinic, resources are available within the Erie community for those who are interested in receiving the vaccine.
Congratulations to the Mercyhurst community on getting the vaccine and getting one step closer to normalcy!