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Campus & Community

Front of the Line

Pilot On-campus COVID Vaccine Clinic Targets Essential, Vulnerable Employees

By Chris Carroll

Man gets a COVID vaccine at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Gerard Toussaint gets his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from University Health Center employee Joanne Ritter today at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, site of the university’s first COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

Frontline staff working in dining halls, residence halls and other facilities on campus rolled up their sleeves today at the University of Maryland’s first COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

Prince George’s County contributed 1,170 doses—one box—of the Pfizer vaccine to make possible the clinic running this week at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center and staffed by about 80 students and professionals from the University Health Center and the Division of Student Affairs. 

Supervisors from across campus have been asking staffers if they would like to be vaccinated but had trouble scheduling an online appointment or had faced transportation, child care or other logistical issues, then giving them time to participate on campus.

Gerard Toussaint, a food service aide at the 251 North dining hall, doesn’t get time during the day to skim the web for potential appointments.

“When I learned I could just come here, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” he said. “You’re still going to do what you have to do regardless, but with the vaccine, you can feel more confident.”

With limited vaccine deliveries, UMD wants to expand access to some of its most vulnerable—and most dedicated—employees who show up on campus each day, are older or have health risks, said Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo.

“Many of them have not left the campus since last March,” Perillo said. “This is a way to honor their service to the university.”

The county will be supplying a second box of the vaccine for second doses, said Dr. Spyridon Marinopoulos, University Health Center director, and UMD will pursue every opportunity to continue providing the vaccine to those who need it, conveniently on campus.

“What we’re hearing is there is going to be ample vaccine in the state and in the county in coming weeks, so we’re hopeful we might be able to receive more and continue to do this,” he said.

Experience providing other vaccinations, months of planning and more than nine months of on-campus COVID testing clinics helped prepare the Health Center logistically for the vaccination effort, but it’s still a learning experience, Marinopoulos said.

“Some of that carries over, but this is obviously a much more complex operation in terms of preparing the vaccine, delivering the vaccine and then tracking and making sure everything is being done correctly,” he said.

Omolola Ojaomo ’22, a resident assistant in Anne Arundel Hall, came for a shot today because she lacked reliable transportation to the mass vaccination site at Six Flags in Bowie.

“I’m somewhere between being excited about this and feeling like it’s a duty,” said the finance and information systems double major. “I have to do this to keep my residents safe, but I’m also excited because it’s getting us closer to being back to normal.”

Lauren Brown contributed to this report.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.