The University of New Hampshire (UNH) hosted two closed vaccination points of dispensing (PODs) for eligible students, faculty and staff.
Eligible members of the community included full-time New Hampshire residents. Out-of-state college students were not eligible at the time of the clinics, but it has since been announced by Gov. Chris Sununu that they will be eligible in New Hampshire beginning April 19.
The clinic was hosted at the Whittemore Center Area, a location UNH has used previously to distribute its COVID-19 self-test kits.
UNH was chosen because of the significant number of residential students, as well as the availability of Health & Wellness staff, McGregor EMS and the nursing department to support the distribution, according the UNH’s Chief of Police Paul Dean.
Though the university does currently not require the vaccine, students arrived in droves to receive their first shot.
Ronald O’Keefe, assistant director of emergency management and former Durham Fire chief spearheaded the clinic, along with UNH nursing students, Health & Wellness, McGregor EMS, Durham Fire and UNH Police.
“We’ve been planning this for about two or three weeks, having two or three meetings every week, and it’s going extremely well,” said O’Keefe.
Student turnout was extremely high for the clinic. Out of approximately 4,200 appointments, nearly 3,400 were students.
“The support we’ve had between the nursing students, faculty and staff, Whittemore Center, recreation, athletics, McGregor Memorial Ambulance, Durham Fire Department. I’m just overwhelmed with it and I am extremely happy with how it’s been going,” said O’Keefe.
The event was so successful, O’Keefe noted vaccinations were able to begin earlier than expected.
“We’ve had very few glitches. It was so good this morning so we opened up early. We opened at 7:30,” said O’Keefe. “This is what makes me proud to be a member of the university community.”
Even with record vaccination numbers underway, out-of-state students were still excluded from UNH’s pod. UNH has not announced formal plans to vaccinate out-of-state students who were left out of this round of vaccinations.
“We would address it,” said O’Keefe. “Right now, we have some dates set aside for next week. The problem would be, we would have to get the vaccinations. We do not have enough vaccinations to do the out-of-state students right now.”
The State of New Hampshire only provided enough doses for those eligible for a vaccine.
“The state would have to give us about another 5000 to 6000 doses to do that,” said O’Keefe. “Can we do it? Yes, we would.”
A majority of UNH’s population remains ineligible for the vaccination within New Hampshire until April 19. According to UNH’s own data, only 44% of the student body was eligible as of April 9. Students and town leaders, such as Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig have continued to contact Sununu to allow out-of-state students to receive their vaccines.
Selig was one of many community leaders within college towns who sent a leader to Sununu urging him to change course.
“We understand that the vaccine is distributed to U.S. states on a pro-rated, per capita basis,” the letter reads. “This means that the number of college students from other states attending school in New Hampshire have been included in New Hampshire’s vaccine allocation.”
In an email to faculty, staff and students on Friday, Dean encouraged students to keep an eye on their email, as they work to “get vaccines and open another point of dispensing (POD) on campus to serve out-of-state and international members of our community.”
Photos courtesy of Ben Domaingue//TNH Staff.