H1N1 vaccine on Columbia campus

By The Columbia Chronicle

By: Eleanor Blick

Contributing writer

Columbia will offer the H1N1 vaccine free to students Nov. 4 – 5 on the first floor of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building, according to Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Safety and Security.  The shots will be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until supplies run out.

Columbia received its first shipment of the H1N1 vaccine two weeks ago, and shots were offered on a first-come, first-served basis at the Wellness Fair on Oct. 21.

“We were very pleased with what happened,” Koverman said.

The process was smooth and all 450 doses were administered within six hours.  Koverman would not confirm the number of injections Columbia will receive this time around, but said it will be smaller than the last shipment.

The injections will be reserved for high-risk students until 11 a.m. These patients cannot be administered the nasal spray vaccination.  Candidates in this category include pregnant women and anyone with chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma, or other chronic medical conditions. Every student will be required to fill out an informational and permission form provided by the Chicago Department of Public Health that will ask whether the student is considered high-risk.

Vaccinations will be available to the general student population from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The good news is we will have approximately 600 nasal spray [vaccines] which should be applicable to the majority of our students,” Koverman said.

Production of the vaccine is months behind schedule and Koverman said Columbia is “fortunate to be getting what we are getting.”

Columbia ordered 5,000 doses from the Chicago Department of Public Health when the H1N1 vaccination first became available in September. But when more shipments will arrive continues to remain a mystery.

“That call could be tomorrow, or it could be a week from tomorrow,” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs.  It was also never made clear whether Columbia would receive all doses at once.

The facility in the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building has been set up for several weeks to offer the vaccine. Originally, a campaign was designed to notify students via e-mail when the vaccination became available and direct them to sign up for a vaccination appointment online, Kelly said.

But Koverman said that plan was more suited for receiving the entire shipment at once.  For now, Koverman thinks Columbia will continue to receive small shipments of the vaccine with little warning time.  Koverman said the first-come, first-served plan works well and Columbia will continue offering the vaccine this way.

As for receiving more supplies, Koverman said, “We are pretty sure we are going to get more, we just don’t know when.”

The Chicago Department of Public Health will be notified when Columbia has used all its vaccine, and once the city receives a new shipment, it will distribute the vaccines accordingly.  Students will receive an e-mail whenever a new shipment is ready to be administered.

The vaccination is free for students and Columbia has assumed the administrative costs of managing the process, which Kelly said are not insignificant.  The vaccinations are being provided to Columbia at no cost, but extra medical personnel will be on hand to administer the vaccination so the Student Health Center can remain open for other student needs.

Meanwhile, a separate limited shipment of the H1N1 vaccine has been received by the Care ATC clinic, which serves the full-time faculty and staff covered by the Columbia health plans, including CCHP/BAS and

HMO II BCBS.

Vaccinations will be administered to faculty and staff on Nov. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and after that date they will be available during the clinic’s normal hours, according to an announcement by Patricia Olalde, director of Human Resources at Columbia.

Olalde said that to receive the shot, faculty and staff must contact Care ATC at (800) 993-8244 to schedule an appointment and must present their insurance cards at the time of the vaccination.

To protect against both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus, two shots are needed. Adults can be administered both shots on the same day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Student Health Center is offering the seasonal flu shot for $25.  The CDC recommends that all people age 6 months to 24 years receive the H1N1 vaccine because of the close contact students have with one another at school, day care and college residences.  People in this age group missed two previous outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, so therefore are more susceptible to catching the virus.

“I am very encouraged that Columbia has not been hit hard,” Kelly said, but added that recent cases in the news remind us all of how tragic the virus can be.

“People lead busy lives and it is understandable that students might say, ‘Well yeah, I know I should do it, but gosh I’m so busy,’” Kelly said.  “But it is in their interest and the interest of our entire community that students really take on the responsibility of getting vaccinated.”

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