VCU students step up to fill Virginia’s need for vaccinators

VCU students step up to fill Virginia's need for vaccinators

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Beginning next week, Virginia will begin receiving roughly 161,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine - an increase of about 30,000 doses - but even with the increase, there isn’t enough vaccine in the state to hold many mass vaccination events. But VCU Health is making sure the manpower is in place now to administer those shots when the supply meets demand.

Since January, VCU Vaccine Corps has trained more than 250 health professions students on vaccinating people. This week, more than 1,200 students, including VCU pharmacy student Henrietta Okafor, volunteered their time to help with vaccination efforts in the Richmond area.

“I’ve just been tasked with immunizing, so patients come see me, they sit down, I tell them what they’re getting and then the procedure afterwards,” Okafor said.

In total, 1,600 VCU students, faculty, staff and VCU Health Team members have expressed interest in volunteering with the VCU Vaccine Corps. Pharmacy students who volunteer will earn state certifications in intramuscular injection during the second year of their program while nursing students complete this training as part of their undergraduate degree.

Dr. Alan Dow with VCU Health helped create the volunteer program after Governor Ralph Northam approved a bill to give more eligible health care providers the chance to help vaccinate those still waiting for a shot.

“The students have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for this. They want to help, and they realize that this is the step that’s going to get us out of the pandemic once and for all,” Dow said. “The vaccine shortage is the problem, but hopefully very soon the problem will be that there is too much vaccine, and the challenge will be how do you get that into people’s arms so that they can be vaccinated.”

The Vaccine Corp is placing heavy emphasis on getting the vaccine to the communities hardest hit by the pandemic, including communities of color.

“What we’re trying to do is get into those communities that may have a little more challenge accessing vaccination events, signing up for events, and getting the vaccine to those communities to vaccinate them,” Dow said.

“Vaccinating just one person, that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 even further so, I guess this is a pretty big impact when you think about it like that,” Okafor said.

The VCU Vaccine Corp is just for VCU students and staff, but those with health backgrounds can volunteer with the Virginia Department of Health’s Medical Reserve Corp by clicking, HERE.

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