The University of New Hampshire (UNH) held its second coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination clinic on April 19, the date President Joe Biden requested all states expand eligibility to everyone over 16.
The clinic was intended to provide an opportunity for out-of-state and international students to receive their first COVID-19 vaccinations. The previous clinic was open only to New Hampshire residents with valid documentation.
This comes just days after Gov. Chris Sununu lifted New Hampshire’s state-wide mask mandate despite the recent uptick in cases.
Even though New Hampshire has rescinded its mask mandate, student compliance with the Durham and UNH mandates has remained consistent. Additionally, enthusiasm for the vaccine has been high within the community.
Ronald O’Keefe, UNH’s Assistant Director of Emergency Management was responsible for overseeing both clinics.
“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.
During the first clinic, O’Keefe noted UNH had received over 4,200 appointments, with nearly 3,400 appointments scheduled by students.
This clinic, which had expanded eligibility, scheduled 2706 appointments, with 2356 individuals receiving their shots.
Even with the expanded eligibility, fewer appointments were booked and technical issues caused much longer wait times for students. According to O’Keefe, the average wait time was 30 minutes, even as six additional stations were added to simplify the process.
“Overall, the UNH COVID vaccination team operated at a high level of efficiency and professionalism,” said O’Keefe.
Even with the extended wait times, student enthusiasm remained strong.
Junior Michael Card was unfazed by the long wait times, so long as he was able to receive the vaccine.
“I’m a type one diabetic, I’ve been waiting for a while,” said Card. “I’m doing what I can to help us get back to normal.”
A Connecticut native, Card was frustrated that eligibility did not include out-of-state students at first.
“It was annoying because I wanted to get it on the first round,” said Card.
First-year Mia Taranko remains optimistic for UNH’s future, as her first exposure to college was during the pandemic.
“I had no in-person classes this semester so I’m looking forward to that opening up and having more interactions with my peers and professors,” said Taranko. “Seeing student enthusiasm makes me feel safe.”
Junior Julian Armijos is one of many who was simply waiting to get the vaccine to have it.
“Why not, it’s available,” said Armijos. “It’s open to me, I’d like to see family members I haven’t been able to see in a while.”
UNH plans to distribute second doses to students on May 6 and 7 for those who received it in the first round on April 8 or 9, and on May 14 for those who received their dose in the second round on April 19.
UNH still requires students to continue to test twice a week and maintain a valid WildcatPass even if they are fully vaccinated. Students who are fully vaccinated are urged to upload proof of vaccination to their profile on Health and Wellness. There are currently no plans to require the vaccine for the fall 2021 semester, and UNH plans to fully reopen in the fall.
O’Keefe expressed his thanks for the students and staff who worked tirelessly to vaccinate students as soon as possible.
“I would like to thank everyone who was vaccinated for helping to protect the UNH community and a heartfelt thank you to the entire COVID Vaccination Team,” said O’Keefe.
Photo courtesy of Ben Domaingue/TNH Staff.