University launches COVID-19 vaccination clinic for students
COVID-19 vaccines were made available to students by appointment on April 19.
The state of Massachusetts opened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 years of age or older on April 19. Assistant Provost for Strategic Initiatives Morgen Bergman sent an email to all Brandeis students on April 16 announcing an on-campus COVID-19 vaccine clinic. The clinic was organized with the University’s pharmaceutical partner, PelMeds Community Pharmacy, located in Waltham. The clinic took place in the Zinner Forum, located within the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, on April 22 and 23, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to an email sent to the Brandeis community by Provost Carol Fierke and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Stew Uretsky.
According to the University website, there are “just over 1,800 students living on campus” this semester. The University was initially offered 1,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. This clinic is only available to students who had not already received their first dose of the vaccine, the website explains. Students who sign up for the vaccine will be able to extend their housing on campus until 24-48 hours after receiving the second dose of the vaccine on campus.
To sign up, all eligible students received an email with unique login information for PelMeds’ website. The original email from Bergman stated that the sign-up for vaccinations would be on April 18 at 10:30 a.m. At 10:48 a.m. on Sunday, Bergman sent an email stating that the sign-up period would be postponed until 5 p.m. due to technical difficulties.
At 5 p.m., when students attempted to access the website, they were unable to enter their identification information. In an email to the Justice, Sam Forman ’21 wrote that he was able to enter his login credentials at around 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, and waited 15 minutes before giving up. At this time, Forman already had an appointment to be vaccinated at Gillette Stadium. However, he felt that this glitch made him “vulnerable,” as when he was able to move out of University housing was determined by when he got the vaccine. Forman, who is graduating this semester, also wrote that this is additional stress for him. Despite the complications, Bergman emailed all eligible students saying that most students were going to be able to get appointments.
Bergman sent another email at 6 p.m. stating that due to the volume of students trying to make appointments at the clinic, the PelMeds system was overwhelmed, resulting in most students being blocked from scheduling appointments. In the email, Bergman advised students to wait and try to set up appointments later.
At 7:10 p.m., Bergman sent out an email informing students that after two hours of technical issues, students could now successfully sign up for appointments, and there were still appointments available. Still, some students continued to have issues logging into the website.
Bergman sent another email to eligible students on April 19, noting that after working overnight with the PelMeds system, students would be able to sign up for appointments through the Brandeis Passport Portal. Forman said that when he received the email at 10:58 a.m., he immediately went to the website to set up an appointment. While frustrated with the technical issues, he told the Justice that he is “grateful to the team responsible for getting this fixed so soon,” and that he was “overcome with emotion at finally having a convenient and low-stress appointment.”
Sami Winawer ’23 received a COVID-19 vaccination through the University’s program on Thursday, April 22. In an April 23 email to the Justice, she wrote that although it took an hour for her to officially get through to make an appointment using the system, “It felt like buying concert tickets.” Winawer added, “I didn't realize other people were having the same issues. I figured it was just me, so I assumed that I had missed out on booking an appointment.” Winawer also wrote that she was impressed with the clinic, stating that everything ran smoothly and she did not have to wait in line.
“It was very exciting to see so many people get vaccinated,” Julia Vinyard ’21 said, who worked at the clinic. They stated that their job was to check people into the clinic and make sure that every person signed the proper paperwork. Vinyard typically works at the COVID-19 testing site in the Usdan Student Center, and was asked to work at the vaccination clinic by their boss, Autumn Brown. Vinyard also mentioned that although they had already received a vaccination elsewhere, they were thrilled that the clinic was taking place on campus because it “encouraged students to get vaccinated, and in some cases allowed students to jump the line.”
Once students receive their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, they are able to upload a picture of their vaccination card to the COVID-19 portal. Once the picture is reviewed, students will receive a sticker on their passport denoting that they have been vaccinated, according to a March 29 email from Bergman.
On April 20, Fierke and Uretsky sent an email to the Brandeis community, stating that the University received 1,100 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, making all students eligible. Later, in an April 26 email to the Brandeis community, Fierke, Uretsky and Vice President of Student Affairs Raymond Lu-Ming Ou, announced that proof of vaccination will be required for all students attending the University in fall 2021.