Universities and colleges throughout the country — including Texas A&M University-San Antonio — have been used as sites to administer the COVID-19 vaccine not only for students and faculty but also community members who live near the campuses.
In early March, the American College Health Association surveyed 367 U.S colleges and universities. Out of the 367 surveyed, 167 or 45.5% said they planned on hosting vaccine sites. Based on the survey, 46 of those schools, or 27.7%, stated that they plan to expand the vaccine opportunity to the general public.
“Part of being in college is to be together,” said Gerri Taylor, co-chair of the ACHA COVID-19 Task Force. “Having clinics on campuses makes access much easier for students, faculty and staff.”
A&M-San Antonio hosted its most recent vaccine clinic May 12.
The university partnered with South Texas Allergy and Asthma Medical Professionals to administer the Pfizer vaccine to students, faculty, staff and the community. Faculty, staff and students received an email on May 6, notifying them to register for the event. On May 10, registration was opened to the public to fill any available slots.
Norberto Salazar, a kinesiology senior at A&M-San Antonio, received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the event.
“Being a student here, it’s more convenient,” Salazar said after receiving his first dose in Patriots’ Casa. “It’s less crowded than going to a CVS or Walgreens. It really didn’t take too long. They give you your paperwork. You fill out. You sit down and get your shot and wait a few minutes and that’s it. In all it was about 20 minutes.”
Other local universities and colleges have also hosted vaccine clinics on their campuses. Trinity University has provided 800 vaccines to its campus community, according to Trinity.edu. UTSA has also started giving out vaccines to its students, faculty and staff, and St Philip’s College plans to host a vaccine clinic May 17 at its campus for the community, according to both schools’ websites.
“I think it’s easy access for the communities there,” Taylor said. “Especially if you have people who don’t have transportation and there are a lot of barriers of going further away. It’s much easier this way to get vaccinated in your community.”
Veterans were some of the first community members to receive vaccines at A&M-San Antonio.
The university held a vaccine event Feb. 27 at Patriots’ Casa for veterans around the area. This event, which gave them the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, was to provide a location that was more convenient to veterans who lived near the university. Veterans received their second dose March 27. The VA turnout was 460 veterans who received both doses, according to Victor Lennhoff, chief of social work service for South Texas Veterans Affairs.
The university held another vaccine clinic for students, faculty, staff and the community to receive the Pfizer vaccine on April 16 and the second dose was given out May 6 with 1,000 doses on hand.
Because many universities have been closed during the pandemic, they make optimal sites for vaccine clinics.
“Many universities have had a really strong track record because they’ve done flu clinics or meningitis vaccine clinics,” Taylor said. “So, they have systems in place. They are ready to roll, so they don’t have to worry about trying to find staff. They’ve got people. Some schools have nursing programs, medical programs, so they can just recruit people right then and there. To me, I don’t know why we didn’t use universities from the get-go.”
On May 12 at A&M-San Antonio, there was a steady stream of people coming through to receive their vaccine. Richard Delgado Jr., executive director of Military Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, said the university and STAAMP publicized the event to the campus and community.
“We’ve done social media, there was an email blast sent to students, staff and faculty. I know STAAMP. spread the word on their social media,” Delgado said. “This isn’t just a vaccine clinic for staff, faculty and students, but this is also open to the community. Just trying to make it easy and accessible for the community to get vaccinated.”
The Mesquite approached five community members walking into Patriots’ Casa at the May 12 event. Most were reluctant to be interviewed because some said they were in a hurry.
Delgado said he hopes the university hosts more clinics, but this is contingent upon the availability of the vaccine.
Rita Arredondo, risk and compliance coordinator for A&M-San Antonio, said the clinic administered 58 shots at the May 12 event. The goal is to provide accessible vaccines for the campus and the surrounding neighborhood.
“Hosting on campus makes it convenient for our campus community who already come to campus and our location is convenient for those who live/work on the Southside of San Antonio,” Arredondo wrote in an email to The Mesquite on May 12.