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Davis, California

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Student employees eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, low availability at UC Davis clinic

Though approximately 7,500 student workers are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, few students have received their doses on campus due to low supply

On March 1, just over 7,500 student employees at UC Davis became eligible for the vaccine under the state’s “education and childcare” category.

BreAnda Northcutt, the communications director for finance, operations and administration, has been working with the Campus Ready communications team since it launched around June last year.

“Pretty quickly the county and state opened up to all education and childcare workers as frontline employees, and that just basically flattened all the tiers that had originally been set up for UC Davis employees,” Northcutt said. 

Cindy Schorzman, the medical director of Student Health and Counseling Services, said that they have a consistent and enthusiastic response for the vaccine clinic at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), but supply has been the main concern. 

“​Vaccine supply remains the limiting factor in the number of doses that we can give,” Schorzman said via email.  

Schorzman said via email that the clinic is able to accommodate between 140-350 people per day depending on the availability of doses.

Nathalie Moriarty is a first-year Ph.D. candidate in psychology and a graduate student researcher eligible under the “education and childcare” tier. She received her first dose on March 8 and received her second on March 29. 

Moriarty got her vaccine at California Northstate University College of Pharmacy in Elk Grove, CA, which is about a 30 to 40 minute drive from Davis. 

“I had been checking [vaccine appointment websites] periodically,” Moriarty said. “Somebody in my cohort or somebody in my lab would say, ‘Hey I got an appointment, here’s the link,’ and by the time we opened the link, they’d be full.”

Northcutt said that on top of the sudden increase in eligibility, the university has switched to using the state’s scheduling system My Turn as part of a state requirement to continue receiving doses of the vaccine. This means that the clinic that once served largely UC Davis employees is now open to the public to book appointments. 

“The general sentiment is there is a greater demand than we have the supply for,” Northcutt said. 

Michelle Andrews, a second-year environmental science and management major, was eligible as a student assistant who works currently on the UC Davis campus.

“I actually spent almost about two or three weeks checking both the school appointment site and the county appointment site multiple times a day to see if there were any appointments,” Andrews said. “It took about two to three weeks to get one through the county.”

Isabella Beristain, a third-year international relations and anthropology double-major, qualified for the vaccine as a writing intern.

“We knew that the best time to look for appointments was midnight to 6 a.m.,” Beristain said. “For me, it was luckily very easy, but I know for lots of other people it’s pretty hard to find vaccine appointments.”

Northcutt said she has been encouraging eligible people to get the vaccine wherever they can and notes that the clinic may expand once more doses of the vaccine become available.

UC Davis’ clinic has the capacity to store all three of the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccines: Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Like many clinics, they provide whatever vaccine is available at the time. 

“We administer whatever we have,” Northcutt said. 

Moriarty said she waited until other graduate students that she knew on campus had gotten the vaccine before she started looking for herself. 

“At one point, I received a link where the person who sent it to me said, ‘Hey, they’re not checking eligibility requirements,’ and that didn’t feel right to me at all.” 

Chancellor Gary May said in an email on March 5 that employees can use their UCPath login to print out proof of employment to show to vaccine clinics when asked.

Some of the first groups in Tier 1 were higher-risk agricultural workers, which Northcutt said the communications team made a grassroots effort to reach out to. 

The state’s tiered system has evolved rapidly, which has made keeping the UC Davis Campus Ready page up to date a constant challenge.

“So we put on information about the vaccine clinic opening,” Northcutt said. “Literally within hours, it changed from 75 plus to 65 plus.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the vaccine will be open to all adults 50 and over, regardless of other risk factors on April 1, as he anticipates an increase in vaccine supply. 

Northcutt said she often gets questions about whether people who are vaccinated can go back to ‘normal.’ At least for the time being, she said, the 6 ft social distancing measures, mask-wearing and testing that has become a normal part of life on campus for UC Davis will continue.

“There’s just so much that’s unknown about how the vaccine will protect other people,” Northcutt said. 

Though Moriarty’s personal risk is low, she said she doesn’t plan on making a lot of lifestyle changes after her second dose.

“I really don’t want to, even though I would be safe, I really don’t want to risk contaminating anybody else,” Moriarty said.

Andrews said she has hated shots ever since she was a little, but she was excited to get her vaccine. 

“I live at home so it was awesome to know that I could protect my family by doing this,” Andrews said. “As soon as the pandemic started out I was counting down the days until I could get the vaccine.”

Written by: Kathleen Quinn — campus@theaggie.org

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