The UNC Medical Center received its first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday and has begun to vaccinate workers in the first phase of priority, Dr. David Weber, associate chief medical officer of UNC Health Care, said at a Campus and Community Advisory Committee discussion.
The committee met Tuesday to discuss the University's plans for the COVID-19 vaccine and testing protocols for the spring semester.
- Phase 1a of vaccine distribution prioritizes any health care personnel with “direct or indirect patient contact,” Weber said. This includes medical staff like doctors and nurses, as well as housekeeping and mental health care providers.
- Weber said UNC Medical Center has about 10,000 health care personnel eligible to receive the vaccine.
- College and university students at low risk and without chronic conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine at Phase 3.
- The UNC Medical Center is designated as an open vaccination site, meaning that as it progresses through the phases, anyone who meets the criteria set by the CDC can be vaccinated there.
- Weber said movement between phases is dependent on how much vaccine is available. “My goal is to use as much vaccine as fast as we can, because the more we use, as the state doles out allotments, the more we'll get at our next allotment,” he said.
- It is unclear when most UNC students should expect to receive the vaccine. Weber said it may be as soon as March or April. UNC epidemiology professor Audrey Pettifor said, due to projected shortages, it may not be until August or September.
- Because of this, the new availability of the vaccine will likely not have a large impact on reopening plans for the spring semester, Weber said.
- UNC has already announced its testing plan for spring 2021. Dr. Amir Barzin, director of the Family Medicine Center, said students will be required to get tested through the University, not at off-campus testing sites.
- HallPass, a web-based application, will be used to track if students are meeting their testing requirements by importing information about in-person classes and living situations from ConnectCarolina, Barzin said. He said their goal with testing is to have a less-than-48-hour turnaround.
- Chris McClure, the interim chief of staff of the UNC System Office, said the Office of Student Affairs will be in charge of enforcing testing protocols.
- Barzin and his colleagues are still working on balancing privacy and safety to allow professors and other on-campus workers to see who is meeting testing protocols, he said.
- Barzin said the University also plans to have more than 500 rooms available for quarantine and isolation spaces for students.
- Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman said an “off-ramp” is not necessarily the plan for the spring semester.
- “As I hear it, we're not looking at metrics for a pivot to go back home,” she said. “We might go to, people have to lock down for a couple of weeks, that sort of thing.”
- The committee recommended streamlining communication about COVID-19 protocols to students, faculty and staff to ensure everyone gets key information.
- The committee plans to continue meeting during the spring semester.
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