On Mar. 23, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and Governor Brian Kemp announced that all Georgians 16 years of age and older would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on Mar. 25, causing both the state and Tech to begin vaccinating on a much larger scale.
Prior to the announcement, Georgia was working through the most recent phase of the planned vaccine rollout, which included those older than 55, people with physical disabilities and people with underlying medical conditions. William Smith, director of Tech’s Office of Emergency Management, spoke with the Technique about how the Institute is handling the increased eligibility now.
“It was really the previous announcement that was a bit of a challenge for us to shift gears quickly,” Smith said, referencing the previous phase. He said that there were more people seeking to get vaccinated because of underlying medical conditions than they were expecting, causing Tech’s vaccination efforts to stagger.
This previous stumble has better prepared Tech for the current influx of vaccine appointments, as almost all members of the Tech community are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine now. Tech now has a steady stream of vaccines coming from the Georgia DPH, and Smith said he is “confident that we’ll be able to maintain that capacity in our clinics.”
Vaccine appointments have been quickly filled as they become available, with many students eager to receive their long-awaited shots. “I’m super excited to begin the vaccination process,” said Anna Handley, MGT ’22, after receiving her first dose. “I’m excited to do what I can to keep others around me safe.”
Other students mentioned what they were looking forward to once they achieved full immunity after their second shot. “I’m going to go travel right after I’m free from COVID. I am not staying home anymore,” said Lisa Wu, CE ’22.
Caleb Becker, IE ’23, said that he was going to “visit my parents again because they were hesitant to come up, and we’re all getting vaccinated around the same time.”
Other students took advantage of opportunities to get vaccinated off campus with the increased eligibility.
“It was much faster to get vaccinated off-campus than it would have been to wait in the queue at Tech, even though it would have been more convenient,” said James Mead, ME ’24, who went home over the past weekend to receive a vaccine at a local pharmacy. He also mentioned that Tech is mostly just administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which makes it difficult to schedule his second appointment with the Institute as he received the Moderna vaccine for his first dose.
Smith also said that students getting vaccinated elsewhere is good but complicates keeping track of demand for vaccines on campus.
One way students could help is to update their vaccination record on the Stamps Health website, which would allow the Institute better judge how many students still need the vaccine.
Smith is optimistic about the number of vaccinations Tech can administer each week and expects about 1,000 doses to be administered each day. At this rate, he hopes that all students can be fully immunized by the end of the semester.
Students can sign up for a vaccine appointment at mytest.gatech.edu, which has also served as the COVID-19 testing portal over the past year.
Vaccines are administered at Exhibition Hall on campus Monday through Friday.