Campus to host two COVID-19 vaccine clinics

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COVID testing sign in front of the Leonard Center in September. Photo by Malcolm Cooke ’21.

Libby Sykes and Lindsay Weber

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 4/23 to reflect new information about the school’s vaccination requirements for fall 2021.

The Laurie Hamre Center for Health and Wellness is busy this week with two vaccine clinics opening up on campus. The vaccination clinic on Thursday, April 22 is offering 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine for students only through the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

 A second clinic, which is open to students, faculty and staff, will take place April 29 and 30 through Hy-Vee and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership, and will administer 400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine each day — 800 doses total. Next week’s clinic will also offer a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for people who sign up and received their first dose at least 18 days prior. A second-dose clinic for both vaccines is scheduled for May 20 and 21. 

“We are confident we have enough vaccines for any student who wants one,” wrote Steph Walters, Medical Director at the Hamre Center in an email to The Mac Weekly.

Unlike several other states, Minnesota’s vaccine distribution plan did not put higher education in a higher priority tier, meaning that the college had to wait until all Minnesotans were eligible to receive doses to administer to students, faculty and staff. All Minnesotans became eligible to receive the vaccine on March 30, and Macalester received word that they would be allocated doses last week.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 190 of the 200 available Moderna vaccine doses available through the MDH had been assigned through the Hamre Center survey. 1300 on-campus students and employees have already been vaccinated at the time the school offered its own clinic yesterday according to the Macalester COVID-19 dashboard.

Paul Overvoorde, Macalester’s director of COVID Operations, said that Thursday’s clinic was exclusive to students only because the doses from the MDH were allocated specifically to college students.

“I hope it’s a resource that people take seriously, that does lower the barrier for those that aren’t able to drive distances to get a vaccine,” Overvoorde said. 

He noted that the second dose clinics will fall after the end of the academic year —  the CDC recommends 21-42 days after the first dose for Pfizer and 28-42 days for Moderna.

“The timing is clearly not ideal, from the standpoint of really being able to get both doses before people will be dispersing from campus.” Overvoorde said. “That is unfortunate and frustrating — it’s purely based on vaccine availability.”

He said that although students, faculty and staff who sign up for a first dose should ideally try to receive their second dose on campus at the May clinics, they are invited to sign up for their first dose and find a second dose appointment elsewhere if they will no longer be in the Twin Cities area after the academic year.  With an increasing availability of vaccines throughout the U.S., students will likely be able to get their second vaccination elsewhere.

President Biden announced an expansion of the program on March 29 with the goal to activate nearly 40,000 stores enrolled in the network by April 19. Last week a set of doses became available through MDH and Hy-Vee pharmacy. 

“Since last spring we’ve been working to get the Hamre Center as a vaccination site,” Overvoorde said.

“In Minnesota there are 25 hubs that end up receiving those vaccine funds from the federal government,” Overvoorde said. “The state gets to decide where those get distributed in Minnesota. So by being a vaccination site we were on the list of eligible places to receive those.” 

President Suzanne Rivera announced on March 31 that the college plans to open the campus in the fall with full occupancy in the dorm halls and in-person instruction for most classes.

On Friday, April 23, Rivera announced in a campus-wide email that the school would require all employees and returning students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by August 2, 2021. Macalester is the first Minnesota school to take this step, and joins several other universities including Depaul University and Columbia College New York.

Put simply, our students and employees deserve to live and work in an environment where public health measures help keep us all safer,” Rivera wrote.

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