At approximately 12:30 p.m. today, University of Mississippi pharmacy students and doctors officially began administering the COVID-19 vaccine in the Tad C. Smith Coliseum. The first person to receive a dose was senior biology major Brianna Chambers.
Chambers is a certified EMT, so she has been eligible to receive the vaccine since the first doses were administered in January. For the past two months, though, she has been waiting to make an appointment because she felt like other people should have the opportunity to be vaccinated before her.
“I’m not actively working as a healthcare worker right now, so I didn’t want to take it from someone who was. They needed it first,” Chambers said. “I had gotten on the waitlist with the university, and when I got the message from the university that I could get an appointment, I was like, ‘Okay, now I can get it.’”
Initially, on-campus vaccinations were only available to people who both qualify under the Mississippi State Department of Health eligibility guidelines and work at the university, including student workers and those who work in Aramark locations on campus. Currently, the MSDH says that people who may receive the vaccine are: healthcare personnel, long-term care facility residents and staff, anyone over the age of 16 with a chronic health condition, adults over the age of 50, K-12 teachers and preschool and childcare workers.
However, some student workers and other university employees who don’t meet any of those requirements have been able to receive the vaccine at the on-campus clinic.
According to a statement from university spokesman Rod Guajardo, when university officials were notified earlier this week that the university was to receive 1,170 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, they first allowed campus employees who met MSDH standards for vaccine eligibility to make appointments for the clinic on March 10 and 11. Then, they realized that over half of the total available appointments were still open.
“When supply outpaced demand, the university followed the recommendation of our Task Force to activate the standby list to ensure that shots get in arms of our employees,” Guajardo said. “In order to ensure that none of the vaccine doses provided to us by MSDH were wasted, campus workers on the standby list were notified via text message on the afternoon of Thursday, March 11, that they could begin scheduling vaccine appointments on campus.”
UM administrators compiled the standby list by using information from the COVID Vaccine Administration Survey that the Office of the Provost sent to the UM community via email in February to measure willingness to receive the vaccine, as well as how many people on campus have already received the vaccine.
As of Friday, at 8 a.m., 581 of the university’s available 1,170 appointments have been scheduled, according to Guajardo, and the university will continue to notify students and employees on the standby list when they can book an appointment.
“We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our campus workforce as well as the entire campus community and know that this must involve a strategy to ensure that no vaccine doses are wasted,” Guajardo said.
Those who are eligible may make an appointment through the online COVID-19 vaccine registration form, and vaccine administration will take place on the following dates at times: Friday, March 12: 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 13: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, March 16: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday, March 18: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m..