Harding held its first on-campus vaccine clinic on Jan. 18, administering a total of 60 vaccines to employees 65 and older.
Dr. Jeanie Smith and Dr. Ellen Jones, College of Pharmacy faculty members, administered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines Monday at the American Heritage Auditorium.
“The early roll out of Phase 1B includes those who work in higher education as well as those aged 70 or older,” Dr. Julie Hixson-Wallace, vice president for accreditation and institutional effectiveness and associate provost, said. “Since all of our employees fall under the 1B category, we invited those aged 65 and older.”
Arkansas entered the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination plan after Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Jan. 14 that Phase 1B — which includes people over age 70, teachers and school staff, and childcare and higher education workers — would begin Monday, Jan. 18. In an email to Harding faculty, the University announced that vaccinations would be made available to some faculty at Monday’s clinic.
In December 2020, the Harding College of Pharmacy applied to be a vaccination provider for the University. While the application is still pending, students in the health sciences programs are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to their close work with Unity Health Hospital. This categorizes them under Phase 1A with health care providers or those in a health care setting who provide care to patients.
“We received an invitation from local pharmacies to give the vaccine to the Center of Health Science students that are doing clinical patient care,” Dr. Susan Kehl, dean of the Carr College of Nursing, said. “We have had to be very strict with quarantine and isolation because our students go to hospitals and take care of vulnerable people who are [at] high risk for COVID-19. They had to wear masks, face shields and gloves. They still will, but the vaccine will add another layer of protection.”
One hundred fifteen health science students signed up to receive the vaccine to start their clinicals for the spring semester. Some students were vaccinated as early as Jan. 15.
“At first I was not going to get the vaccine because I wanted to wait and see the side effects,” junior nursing major Anna Rachel Hite said. “However, the cases started to go up, and especially in Searcy. Seeing the patients and how sick they were made me want to talk to more people because I want to be safe with my patients.”
Hite said she ultimately wanted to decrease her exposure and chances of transmitting the virus to others, both at the hospital and at home, leading her to apply for the vaccine.
While the Harding College of Pharmacy application to be a vaccination provider is still pending, it has been prioritized since Phase 1B began. No update has been released about when college students will be able to receive the vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control, healthy college students are likely to fall into Phase 2 of the vaccination plan, due to young adults being low risk.
Dr. Ginger Blackstone, HU16 news director and associate professor of communication, said she received a vaccine Jan. 18 at a local pharmacy because she did not fit Harding’s qualifications. Blackstone said she chose to do so, wishing to keep herself and the people around her safe.
“Since I am an educator, I am around a lot of people all day,” Blackstone said. “I didn’t hesitate.”
Although Harding does not have an official waitlist, Hixson-Wallace said there could be several hundred employees waiting to receive a vaccine, though the lack of vaccinations is not preventing them from performing their duties.
“The more people we can get vaccinated, the better … in order to be able to get the pandemic under control,” Hixson-Wallace said.