In an effort to increase vaccination rates and reduce the spread of COVID-19, East Carolina University’s Student Health Services (SHS) has provided on-campus vaccination clinics for student, faculty and staff usage.
LaNika Wright, director of SHS, said in an email statement that vaccination clinics can be found in room 125 of the Main Campus Student Center (MCSC) and the ECU Pharmacy located at the Brody School of Medicine. She said the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available for students at the MCSC. Additional information can be found on ECU’s SHS webpage. According to the webpage, COVID-19 vaccines will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the MCSC.
The rate of vaccinated students, faculty and staff on campus continues to rise, Wright said, and she said the university has set a goal of at least 66% of the overall student body being vaccinated. As of date of publication, the overall student body reached a 56% vaccination rate, with those who live in residence halls being 63% vaccinated.
“The reality is we’ve seen other illness(es) primarily eradicated by vaccination,” Wright said. “We can do this with COVID(-19) as well, with vaccination.”
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy said vaccines will be available for students throughout the entire semester, as well as testing opportunities, through SHS and off-campus resources. She said the clinics are currently open Monday through Friday every week, though the university will open on the weekends if eventually needed.
Vaccines have proven to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Hardy said, as well as the severity of symptoms within breakthrough cases caused by the Delta variant. She said ECU is a smaller part of the larger community and vaccinations are the safest way to increase immunity. Hardy said she encourages those with questions and concerns about the vaccines to speak with their healthcare providers or SHS.
If individuals choose not to get vaccinated this semester, Hardy said they will instead have to participate in ECU’s COVID-19 testing policy in order to reduce case numbers on campus. She said the university has avidly shared information about the clinics through classroom visits, social media platforms, emails and more. She said the university has provided incentives for on-campus vaccinations, such as gift cards and on-field passes for home football games.
“It is extremely important in order for the university to continue to operate in this traditional way, and in a traditional way that I believe we all want, right,” Hardy said. “Our students want it, faculty want it, staff want it, administrators want it, parents want it, the community wants it.”
Sophomore intended nursing major Areaonia Blalock said though she understands the university’s push for student and employee vaccinations, she personally believes the act should be a choice for the individual to decide through their own research and beliefs.
Blalock said the university could prioritize spreading accurate vaccine information to the community as a way to combat misinformation they may find online. She said this may also incentivize more students to get vaccinated as they’re more aware of what the vaccine is and what it does.
Though ECU has forwarded students emails and announcements that push for vaccinations, Blalock said she feels as though university resources only outline ECU expectations and protocols regarding the vaccines, not information about the vaccines themselves. She said online research can be overwhelming for a student and can understand why an individual would choose not to get vaccinated.
“My concern still falls under, the clinical trials for normal medications are supposed to take two to three years,” Blalock said. “So I feel like a lot of things were rushed into, and especially me being a science major and a nursing major, I’m very scientific-based. So I never want to support something that we don’t fully know what could happen, but I understand the rush for students to get vaccinated.”
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) declined to interview due to limited staff availability, though NCDHHS Communications Specialist Bailey Pennington replied with an email statement.
North Carolina has seen the quickest growth in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Pennington said, and the rates of infection have been the highest in those between the ages of 18 and 24, the age of many students within higher education.
“Vaccination is critically important for college students not only to protect their own health, but also to protect family members and others at higher risk for severe illness and to be sure that colleges are able to continue in-person instruction throughout the year,” Pennington said.