Tech begins vaccinating campus community

Captain Marcus Walton of the Tech Police Department receives his first round of the COVID-19 vaccine from Anndrea Terrell. // Photo courtesy of Christopher Moore, news.gatech.edu

Early last week, Tech received its first allotment of COVID-19 vaccines and began vaccinating campus community members, signifying the start of Tech’s local eradication of the virus.

As coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide, a glimmer of hope has emerged in the form of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines have been distributed all over the country in the past month to halt the spread of coronavirus, and just over 1,000 doses were recently sent to Tech.

Tech received 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 12, and the Institute immediately began vaccinating those in the Phase 1A+ group of the Georgia Vaccine Plan on campus. This includes GTPD staff, COVID-19 surveillance testing personnel, medical staff on campus, and campus members aged 65 and older.

William Smith, Director of Tech’s Office of Emergency Management, spoke about how Tech will handle vaccinating members of the community while following Georgia’s schedule for phases.

“The phases aren’t perfect,” he explained. “Our commander’s intent is to maximize the number of people we can vaccinate in each phase.”

He offered an example of how Stamps Health Services, Counseling Center, and Health Initiatives staff are able to be vaccinated during Phase 1A+ as healthcare workers although their jobs and exposures may vary.

Smith also offered a tentative agenda for vaccine rollout for other groups, although he acknowledged it would largely depend on the state and national vaccination progressions as well.

“Probably middle of the next month is likely” for the transition to Phase 1B, which would include all faculty and staff on campus as essential workers. Smith said that Tech is intending to cover student employees in this phase too.

Phase 1C would include students with medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19, and Smith said his department was still working out the details for how qualified students could request the vaccine. Smith anticipates that Phase 1B will be relatively long followed by a shorter Phase 1C, but he is unsure of when these transitions may occur.

“Phase 2 will be huge for us … and will cover all of our students,” said Smith. “We expect to be done with our campus community by Phase 2,” which he expects to be before the end of the semester. He hopes most members of the campus community will take advantage of the vaccine when made available to them, although the vaccine is not currently required for being on campus.

Smith said that mandatory COVID-19 vaccination would be decided by the University System of Georgia and not Tech. He is optimistic that the community will quickly embrace the vaccine and life on campus will return to a sense of normality with a few lingering precautions next year.

Although campus-wide vaccinations may seem far away, Smith advised that the vaccination efforts will likely be a “trickle followed by a deluge.”

Tech’s Office of Emergency Management held a townhall on Jan. 21 about vaccine rollout on campus. Additional information can be found in the coronavirus pages at health.gatech.edu.