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UA plans covid-shot event for this month

by Jaime Adame | January 14, 2021 at 3:31 a.m.
Kassandra Salazar (left), a sophomore at the University of Arkansas from Rogers, speaks Tuesday, April 5, 2016, to a group of 11th-grade students from Heritage High School in Rogers as they walk past Old Main while on a tour of the university campus in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A campus event is being planned for later this month to distribute covid-19 vaccine to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville employees, Provost Charles Robinson said Wednesday.

"I learned this morning that we're actually coordinating with Collier Drug Store to do a mass vaccination event on the 23rd of January," Robinson said at a meeting of the university's faculty senate. He said the preliminary plan is for nursing students to help staff the event and for it to have a stadium setting.

"It will be an appointment-based type of program," Robinson said. The meeting took place online.

In a campus announcement Wednesday, the university stated that letters will be sent to workers newly eligible to receive the vaccine. These individualized letters are to serve as documentation that's part of the vaccination process, the announcement stated.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in a statewide address on Tuesday, said teachers and staff working in higher education are eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine starting Monday. Other groups newly eligible to receive the vaccine starting Monday include kindergarten-12 teachers and staff, day care workers and people 70 and older, Hutchinson announced.

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Students, as a group, are not among those newly eligible to receive the vaccine.

UA-Fayetteville on its website Wednesday reported having 120 active cases of covid-19, including 95 students, 21 staff and faculty members, and one graduate assistant. Spring semester classes started Monday.

Among other colleges, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced that it plans "to administer as many vaccines as possible on" Monday at its UA Little Rock Health Services.

For campus workers with health insurance, there will be no cost for the vaccine, while UALR workers without insurance may be billed an estimated fee of $20.

Questions remain, however, about how much vaccine will be available next week.

"On-campus vaccinations are dependent upon pharmacies receiving sufficient quantities of the vaccine," stated the message to the UALR campus. The vaccine that's available will be provided all next week at the UALR site in partnership with local pharmacies, the announcement stated.

UALR on its website Wednesday reported having 12 active cases of covid-19, including seven students. The campus begins its spring semester classes on Tuesday.

Robinson, speaking to Fayetteville faculty, also said it's unclear how much vaccine will be available.

"We are not really sure what the amount of availability is, because we don't control that," Robinson said.

Robinson said while there is planning for the mass vaccination event, there will be multiple days for workers to receive the vaccine, depending on its availability.

"Anything that we have access to, that Collier Drug Store says we have access to, we will use," Robinson said.

Robinson said UA-Fayetteville's Pat Walker Medical Center is also seeking state authorization to distribute the vaccine but that permission so far has not been granted.

UA-Fayetteville, in its campus announcement Wednesday, said there is no out-of-pocket cost for those getting the vaccine, though there may be an administration fee billed to those with health insurance.

The announcement also stated that UA-Fayetteville workers "in a completely remote status will not be eligible for the vaccine during this phase."

While there are faculty members and others only teaching classes remotely this semester, Robinson said that does not necessarily equate to having a completely remote status.

"Some people, because they're teaching remote doesn't mean that they don't engage the campus in some way," Robinson said. "So rather than to try to figure that out specifically, we're just working to see how we might support our campus community."

He said that he's expressed "my desire that we would vaccinate anyone who wants to be vaccinated" to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and others. "And I think we're going to try to do that," Robinson said.

UA-Fayetteville spokesman Mark Rushing in an email said the university is following state Department of Health guidance on vaccine eligibility.

Asked specifically about those only teaching remote courses, Rushing stated that "individual situations vary" as faculty members "may still be using their office or otherwise [be] required to be physically present on campus."

In December, a UA spokesman said the university has 4,789 employees.


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