UW News

March 4, 2021

UW students join the front lines of the vaccination effort

UW News

 

Since the first COVID-19 vaccines became available in December and supply continues to ramp up, one distribution challenge has been finding vaccinators. Organizations large and small are desperate to get enough qualified people to administer shots.

In response, the UW schools of pharmacy, nursing, medicine, social work, public health and dentistry formed an advisory committee to coordinate support to Public HealthSeattle & King County, UW Medicine, tribes and partner clinics in efforts to get the community vaccinated. 

Finding volunteer vaccinators is part of that support, and clinics are now tapping a little-known resource: students. Nursing, pharmacy, medical and dental students are trained and qualified to administer vaccines as part of their education. 

By the end of February, around 350 UW students had signed up to be volunteer vaccinators in clinics from Tacoma to Marysville.

 

To prepare volunteers, the UW School of Nursing Simulation Center holds “vaccine bootcamp” refresher courses to familiarize UW students and instructors with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and equipment. They can ready 150 students in a week.

Operation Immunization, a student-run organization in the School of Pharmacy, has been providing vaccinations for at-risk King County communities for 24 years. It already had a volunteer group in place when calls started coming in for help with COVID-19 vaccinations. Many pharmacy students already have experience giving shots through internships with hospitals and community pharmacies.

Medical and physician assistant students at the UW School of Medicine have also signed up to help. The students are participants in the medical school’s Service Learning Program.

Kendra Nguyen, a School of Pharmacy student and director of Operation Immunization, said that students are welcoming the hands-on experience and the opportunity to make a difference in a crucial moment. 

“Ten years from now, I can look back and say I did something meaningful during this world-wide pandemic.”

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