JMU hosts vaccination event for higher ed employees

Screenshot from The Citizen‘s local vaccine tracker.

By Katelyn Waltemyer, contributor

All JMU employees — including faculty, staff, graduate assistants and student employees — and other local higher education staff members that fall under Virginia’s 1c category are eligible to receive a first round of the COVID-19 vaccine at the JMU Convocation Center on Friday morning. 

Tim Miller, JMU vice-president of student affairs, sent an email to all student employees on Wednesday about the pop-up vaccination event, organized by the Central Shenandoah Health District and JMU. 

At Friday’s clinic, vaccine recipients will have to show registration confirmation, and JMU student employees must show proof that they attend the university with a JACard and recent payslip from MyMadison, according to Miller’s email announcement. JMU has just shy of 3,000 student employees, said Mary-Hope Vass, the university’s director of communications.

Hanna Kelly, a junior geographic science major who works for JMU Dining Services, plans to be vaccinated at Friday’s clinic. She said she’s happy the university is offering these vaccines so quickly after Harrisonburg officially entered the 1c category

“I just want to be safe,” Kelly said. “I want to be vaccinated, so I can make others feel safe, so we can continue to move on with normalcy.”

Kelly, who is from Pennsylvania, said her family members have had trouble getting the COVID-19 vaccines. She said it was “simple” signing up for JMU’s clinic. In order to receive the Pfizer vaccine Friday, eligible individuals had to sign up for time slots through the Virginia Department of Health website. 

“I felt very relieved to be able to be in a position where I could easily sign up and just go within a few days and get it,” Kelly said. 

Vass, the university spokesperson, said in an email that JMU will continue to be “of service” to the community with vaccine rollouts. 

“As we have since the vaccine was available, the university will continue to be an active partner in the vaccine distribution as long as it is needed,” Vass wrote.

Junior nursing major Nicole DeHaven was among those vaccinated earlier this year after nursing students were notified that they were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. She said her vaccination process was smooth because when she was emailed links to sign up for time slots, she did so immediately. 

“It was kind of hard for a lot of people because the signup slots got filled up really quick,” DeHaven said. “But I got on the website and signed up right away.”

On Friday, parking will be available at the convocation center but may be limited, according to Miller’s email announcement. After the vaccine is administered, individuals must wait before leaving the convocation center to monitor potential reactions. 

By April 18, any Virginia resident 16 years or older will be eligible for the vaccine. Vass said the university will continue to work closely with the Virginia Department of Health to coordinate more vaccine clinics in the future. 

“We must all be flexible during these times and do the best we can to take advantage of these opportunities,” Vass said.

With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more accessible to the general public, many public universities in the U.S. have discussed whether or not they should require students to have COVID-19 vaccinations by the 2021-22 academic year. Vass said that there isn’t a legal basis to require the vaccine at this time. 

“As federal and state guidance evolves, the university will evaluate the health benefits and potential risks in moving forward,” Vass said. “If this does become a requirement, proper communication would be issued to inform the student body of the information.”

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