For first-year students like Sam del Ray and Jessie Taylor, college is a time to step into a brand new community. During this pandemic year, meeting new people became a significant challenge, especially protecting each other’s health. On campus, the PLNU Wellness Center formed a COVID-19 Wellness program and gained access to vaccines.
Del Ray is one student who took advantage of the resources available through the Wellness Center because she “wanted to keep myself and those around me safe.”
In tackling health concerns in the community, Caye Smith, vice president for Student Development, said the creation of the COVID-19 program was a difficult undertaking initially.
“Understanding what we would need in order to manage the pandemic from a health perspective took us a few weeks,” said Smith.
According to Smith, the need for this program became clear when the study abroad students of 2020 saw the pandemic hitting foreign countries.
In addition to creating a COVID-19 surveillance program for the fall 2020 semester, in this current spring semester, the Wellness Center implemented COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dr. Jen King, director of the COVID-19 Response Team at the Wellness Center, said having access to vaccines after gaining government approval was a significant undertaking.
“I have been negotiating the contract with the state of California since Jan. 3,” King said. “I know that date because it took us almost three months before we got vaccines in hand. It was quite a long effort to be a smaller provider. I would say I sent between three and five emails per day, one phone call per day, for weeks before we got our first dose.”
In early March, the Wellness Center administered its first doses of vaccines exclusively to PLNU faculty and students.
“We felt it was important to have the vaccine on our campus so that we can not only manage the distribution but provide the education and provide the type of environment for our students to be vaccinated in,” said King.
Right now, 50% of PLNU students are vaccinated, according to Smith.
Taylor got her first round of the vaccine on April 15, while del Ray got her first round on April 30.
“I don’t usually like shots, but there were speakers playing music and the nursing students that administered the shot for me were super kind and funny, so I was more at ease than when I’m in a typical sterile doctor’s office environment,” said Taylor.
“All the experiences I’ve had have been great,” said del Ray. “From the people who checked me in to the people who gave me my shots, everyone was so welcoming and made me feel at ease. It was organized, clean, and from what I could observe ran very smoothly.”
While Smith hopes this trend will increase, she also noted PLNU will not require vaccinations for students in the upcoming semester.
“We would love to achieve 70% vaccination status of all of our main campus students if at all possible,” Smith said. “At this point, Loma’s posture is that we are urging, not requiring.”
Taylor and del Ray are hopeful for more vaccinations and a revived community next semester.
“I think it is important to get vaccinated to help slow the spread, and hopefully eradicate, COVID-19,” said del Ray. “It is a privilege to go to a school that vaccinates you for free, especially when there are so many countries throughout the world who have no access to the vaccine and are suffering because of it. It would feel, at least to me, irresponsible not to take advantage of such a blessed and wonderful opportunity.”
By: Elaine Alfaro