College students become priority for COVID-19 vaccines

Dr. Danny Avula says college students ‘are spreaders of disease’

BLACKSBURG, Va. – As COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues, college students are becoming a big focus.

A clinic for Virginia Tech students next week filled up in less than 24 hours.

Despite young adults showing mild reactions to the coronavirus, it’s State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula’s priority to get shots in college students’ arms before the spring semester ends.

“It’s really the reality that college students are drivers of transmission,” Avula said. “And so when you look at that young adult population because of their behaviors, their adherence to mitigation factors. They are spreaders of disease.”

David Sanches, a material science engineering major at Virginia Tech, agrees as he was worried about bringing the virus back home to his family in California.

“I think if we have an outbreak here and we don’t know it to two weeks out,” Sanches said. “It might be we spread it throughout the country.”

That’s why some health districts are already underway with student vaccination clinics.

But a shortage of Johnson and Johnson vaccines may push clinics back a week.

Avula points out three options to remedy this.

One idea is to push back student vaccination to wait for more Johnson and Johnson supply.

Another idea is to pair colleges and pharmacies to offer on-campus clinics.

“The pharmacies are getting separate allocations above and beyond the state allocations,” Avula said. “They are very willing in many cases to come on-site a vaccination event for college students.”

The third option is to give out Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to colleges that have more runway.

But time is crucial to assure students receive both doses.

“It will take a different kind of coordination once they go home.”

It’s a challenge Abigail Darko, a senior at Virginia Tech, is worried about too.

“I think when people go home accessibility changes,” Darko said. “A university provides so many resources and at home, you may not have those resources.”

The New River Health District is giving out first-time Pfizer and Moderna doses Thursday at Lane Stadium.

Virginia Tech students already booked all 2,500 slots.

Allie Kaittrell, who graduated from Virginia Tech in December, said students need to remember they are guests to Blacksburg.

“I think a lot of students forget about that and think that we’re young and healthy and immune,” she said. “And that’s definitely not the case for us and that’s definitely not the case for the community that we’re in.”

Avula said he expects to see 100,000 to 150,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines to return to Virginia by the end of April.

About the Author:

Alexus joined 10 News in October 2020.