April 15: Screen, Test & Protect
From the director of Screen, Test & Protect:
I hope everyone is doing well. As the semester winds down, our vaccination efforts are in full swing. And we have some new ways for you to get into the mix and be a part of the effort to end the pandemic.
As you all likely know by now, on April 5 we kicked off our ambitious plan to mass vaccinate as many people as possible, both on campus and in the community, at the Champions Club at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Since then, we have vaccinated over 20,000 people, including nearly 5,100 on the first day.
We have changed our scheduling system to make things even easier. We are still taking appointments, as this helps us plan better. However, we are now also taking walk-up appointments. We now have the capacity to do on-the-spot registration and you can still be in and out in about 20 minutes.
Up to two weeks after students report their first vaccine by uploading their card, they will drop out of routine surveillance testing. They will still need to test to be cleared for campus during this time. Once their vaccination is confirmed, they will receive an email notification that they are no longer in routine testing. Note that this routine surveillance testing applies only to select groups of students, not to faculty and staff. At this point, there are no plans to collect vaccination information, even voluntarily, from faculty and staff
Lending a helping hand
Our community vaccination efforts that started back in January to reach the east side of town and migrant communities continue. Nearly 200 agricultural workers have been vaccinated at the Champions Club and efforts continue on the east side. To date, 80% of African American Alachua County residents 65 and older have been vaccinated. None of this would be possible without the collaboration and support of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County. Together our team has helped 29,099 individuals receive at least one dose, with 9,335 completing the two-shot series. Through the efforts of all vaccination sites (retail, health department, UF Health, out-of-town FEMA sites), nearly 100,000 out of 220,000 Alachua County residents 16 and older have received at least one dose, with over 60,000 completing the series.
Because Florida Shots, the state’s vaccine registry, only lists people by county of residence, knowing the precise percentage of people on campus who have been vaccinated is not easy. Through surveys done at our testing site querying over 1,000 students, 75% to 80% have reported that they have already been vaccinated at least once or will be by the end of this week. Students have been very motivated to get vaccinated. This is remarkable.
So what’s next? Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the remaining students and employees who are interested in getting vaccinated. We are encouraging students and others to get the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna as soon as possible; even if that results in being a week or two late on the second dose, which is medically insignificant as best we can tell.
In case you’re wondering
We know some of you do have questions, especially with the recent news that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout has been paused because of concerns after six people developed clots after receiving the vaccine. Nearly 7 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered to date, so it appears these cases are exceedingly rare — roughly 1 in a million. Although this development warrants further investigation, it is important to remember that the monitoring system that is in place worked, which should instill confidence, not fear. Officials at the FDA and the CDC are investigating.
Importantly, of the nearly 200 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines administered, no such concerns have arisen, although the same robust monitoring system is in place to ensure that if there is a problem we will know about it and take the appropriate steps to pause or stop the use of a vaccine if necessary.
How you can help
The coming weeks will be key to our efforts to eliminate COVID-19 as a public health problem. We are taking many steps to address vaccine hesitancy, including participating in a variety of town halls to answer questions, working with trusted community partners, improving access and creating efficient vaccination clinics. In addition, we have transitioned to taking all walk-ins at any of the health department clinics we’re helping to support around the county — no appointments necessary.
You can do your part as well. I would like to invite you to support the effort by joining the COVID-19 Community Corps. This is a national effort supported by the CDC. As a member, you’ll receive timely, accurate information to share with your family, friends and neighbors. By encouraging them to get vaccinated, you’ll help protect them — and allow all of us to safely gather together again. Visit https://wecandothis.hhs.gov/covidcommunitycorps for more information.
Well that’s it for this week. Remember to stay safe, encourage others to get vaccinated as soon as they can and hang in there a little longer. Vaccination is our best way out of the pandemic and is our best path to normal. I remain hopeful that we will get there as soon as early summer. Thanks again for all the support. Our team is grateful beyond words.
As always, please visit the Screen, Test & Protect website for more information and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of any help at all.
Michael Lauzardo, MD, MSc
Director, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect
Deputy Director, Emerging Pathogens Institute
Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine
UF College of Medicine
Questions about Screen, Test & Protect? Submit them via the online contact form.