Colleges working to get students, staff vaccinated

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Since the state’s COVID-19 vaccination eligibility expanded on April 1, area colleges and universities are encouraging, but not requiring students to register for vaccination.

At the University of Connecticut, employees and students are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine, said Stephanie Reitz, university spokesperson.

“Having high vaccination rates will greatly affect UConn’s ability to successfully reopen for the fall semester with a large variety of in-person classes, higher density in residence halls and more typical workplace conditions than we currently have,” Reitz said. 

The university is expecting to receive a limited quantity of the vaccine for the small number of students who are approved to remain on campus through the end of the spring semester. Most UConn students are completing the semester fully online after spring break ends on April 17. 

John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations at Quinnipiac University, said students, faculty and staff are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. 

“Medical advice from national health authorities and the CDC indicates that vaccines are safe, highly protective and should be received by all except those with very particular medical conditions or allergies,” Morgan said. “A high level of vaccine coverage will also be instrumental in helping the university return to pre-COVID, on-campus experiences.”

Quinnipiac is “exploring” possibly hosting a vaccine clinic on campus before the spring semester concludes on May 7. 

At Gateway Community College in New Haven, Evelyn Gard, regional associate dean for communications and marketing, said that they are “very sensitive” about the fact that they cannot force anyone to get vaccinated. Gard said they are using social media and other communication to encourage students to trust the vaccination process. 

“We’re sending out information about getting your appointment, what’s the best way to do that,” Gard said.  

Gard suspects that those who aren’t vaccinated right away may change their mind when the fall semester starts. 

“By the time they get to the classroom again...they will see that no one is keeling over and there’s no microchip in (anyone’s) arm,” Gard said. “... We cannot force anyone to take the vaccine and we cannot ask them if they have because those are all private things, but we can encourage, we can show the benefits. Those of us that are vaccinated get to gather in smaller spaces and not wear masks.” 

For Connecticut College in New London, encouraging students to get vaccinated has been a process, said Victor Arcelus, dean of students. 

“We’ve been talking to students in a variety of meetings … since the beginning of the semester about the plans for the semester ahead, which means building on the things we were doing last semester in trying to keep the community safe,” Arcelus said. “Then reinforcing that once the vaccines become available to faculty, to staff and then to students, that it’s important for people to get vaccinated in order to keep themselves healthy and not only the campus community safe, but also the broader New London County community safe.” 

Arcelus said surveys showed that about 95% of the student population is planning on getting vaccinated.

In partnership with the Community Health Center of New London, Connecticut College is hosting a vaccine clinic on Tuesday for about 600 people. 

Kimberly Hogan, dean of administration and campus COVID-19 coordinator for Middlesex Community College, said that today, Saturday and Sunday there will be sites in Middletown for students to get vaccinated. 

“They’re going to be St. Vincent de Paul, Russell Library, Fellowship Church and the Zion Church,” Hogan said. “... The idea is to have them down in the community and they’re going to open up for people to either schedule an appointment or hopefully just walk up.” 

Community Health Center expects to vaccinate about 3,000 students at Wesleyan University in Middletown on April 24 and 25.

There will also be an on-campus COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain on April 18, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for residential students, residence hall directors, student athletes and students who live in New Britain.  

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2208Twitter: @jessica_simms99

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