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Employees at UA line up for shots

With doses limited, campus moving to vaccinate ‘up to 1,000’ this week by Jaime Adame | January 21, 2021 at 3:41 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 vaccination event for University of Arkansas, Fayetteville employees took place Wednesday as the campus seeks to have "up to 1,000" people receive their first doses of the covid-19 vaccine this week, a university spokesman said.

The university last week announced plans for a large appointment-only event set for Saturday, but some workers received the vaccine Wednesday, saying they were grateful.

"I'm so excited to think that they were making a way for us to be protected from this virus," said Judy Drummonds, 74, who said she's worked at UA for 30 years. Workers entered a gate at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to receive the vaccine.

Vaccine supplies remain limited for UA and other campuses, however. State health officials have said colleges and universities will need to take a phased approach to vaccinating their workers. To be fully vaccinated requires two doses delivered weeks apart.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Jan. 12 said teachers and staff members at all colleges and universities in the state were eligible beginning this week to receive the covid-19 vaccine, along with others including kindergarten-through-12th-grade teachers and staffers, day care employees and individuals 70 and older.

In a message to the campus, UA has said it is prioritizing employees based on age. Workers 65 and older are the initial group being invited to get vaccinations. After that, younger workers will be notified about availability until all appointments are filled, the university has said.

The university has more than 5,000 employees, a spokesman has said.

UA spokesman Mark Rushing earlier in the week said some nursing students were also expected to be vaccinated Wednesday and then volunteer to help at future campus vaccination events.

The university did not have access to data on how many received the vaccine Wednesday, Rushing said. While the university is hosting the vaccination events, it is not overseeing the actual vaccinations, Rushing said.

The university has said it is working with Collier Drug Store to vaccinate workers. A phone message left with the drugstore's administrative office was not returned Wednesday afternoon.

"Our goal is to vaccinate up to 1,000 eligible employees this week with the majority of those being scheduled for Saturday," Rushing said in an email.

Drummonds said she goes to campus two days each week to work half-days as part of her job in business services. At other times, she works remotely.

"They have made it where we can work from home, and that has been very helpful," Drummonds said.

But her life has changed during the pandemic, she said. In response to the coronavirus, she said she's "not getting out and doing the things that you normally do."

Linda McKinsey, 74, a clerk in the university's facilities management unit, said the pandemic has led her to put the brakes on many social parts of her life.

"My life has completely changed because I dropped every social occasion. I skipped Christmas, I skipped New Year's. And I actually will be skipping my birthday in two days, too, because I'm not going to take a chance," McKinsey said.

McKinsey said a friend died Monday from covid-19 at age 57.

"I wish people would take it seriously," she said.

McKinsey said getting the shot Wednesday went smoothly.

"I have nothing but good things to say about this process," she said.

Drummonds said those at the vaccination event "show you they care" and were "very pleasant."

"I just appreciate this so much right here, being able to come here and get this, because there's so many -- we just can't get enough of the vaccines," Drummonds said. "That's what hurts, is so many people are needing them, and they just can't get it."

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