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The most recent Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine building, as seen on West Union St., continues with its construction despite delays due to COVID-19. (FILE)

Coronavirus: Ohio begins to focus on vaccinations for college students

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday on Twitter that Ohio will start working to vaccinate all college students who want the vaccine next week. 

DeWine wrote that he believes providing vaccinations to college students will be beneficial to everyone and has the potential to increase the vaccination rate. 

“Although young people are less likely to get sick from COVID, the evidence shows that young people are significant carriers - so, this is also a strategic move to vaccinate students before they scatter throughout the state and county when classes end in May,” DeWine wrote in a tweet.

The Athens City-County Health Department is also advocating for college students to get the vaccine. 

“We want anybody that wants to take the vaccine to have access to it,” Jack Pepper, administrator at the health department, said. “I just think that this is one more step to ensuring that we get as many people as we can possible get vaccinated as soon as we can.”

Ohio University President Duane Nellis is grateful for the step that DeWine is taking regarding vaccinations, according to a university news release. Students also believe having the opportunity to get vaccinated is important. 

“The more people that get vaccinated, the better chance we have of having an even more normal summer and getting back to a normal class schedule next fall,” Sarah Born, a junior studying exercise physiology, said. “So, I really think that if you can get the vaccine, you should.”

Over the next three weeks, OU will receive weekly deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Clinics for the vaccine will start next Wednesday at Heritage Hall and be held the following Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two weeks. 

Students should receive texts and emails from COVID Operations, where they will be able to schedule an appointment online. All vaccines will be free of cost. 

Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, advocated alongside Ken Johnson, chief medical affairs officer and executive dean of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, for students to receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because it requires only one dose, is an ideal option for college students or anyone who doesn’t want the hassle of a second appointment,” Ice said in the news release. “We are fortunate to be able to distribute this to students who want it before they head home for the summer.”

The university encouraged students who already have appointments for other vaccines to cancel their appointments and get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine that will be made available on campus.

The health department is also prepared and already has a plan in place for starting to vaccinate more college students.

“We’ve been planning with the university for just this scenario for a few months now,” Pepper said. “We have a contingency plan that will … involve some additional resources and help within the university community as well as the Medical Reserve Corps here in Athens County.”

The university is excited to offer vaccinations for students as well as provide opportunities for medical and nursing students to gain experience in their field by volunteering for the vaccination effort. 

“These clinics are an incredible opportunity for our medical and nursing students to gain practical experience while also providing greatly needed help to our community,” Johnson said in the release. “I’m proud of Ohio University’s involvement in this critically important public health effort.” 

With the vaccination program in place, the university is looking at increasing the number of in-person classes.

“The Provost has asked our Fall Curriculum Planning group to re-review course delivery methods before Course Offerings go live,” Nellis wrote in an email. “Colleges and campuses are identifying classes that could be moved from online to in-person should guidelines change, and we will ensure that those classes are scheduled with meeting patterns so that students’ schedules can remain intact.”

Vaccination efforts at regional campuses are still being explored as a possibility by the university, but there is not yet a specific plan in place.


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