UHS increases staff in response to COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expansion

Image of COVID vaccination site
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff
UC Berkeley has increased the amount of staff in University Health Services as the demand for COVID-19 vaccines expands. Campus offers the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to students at no cost.

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As vaccine eligibility has expanded to include California residents 16 years and older, UC Berkeley has increased clinical and administrative staff to University Health Services, or UHS, to accommodate the greater demand for vaccinations.

In the process, UHS was able to reemploy campus staff who were on furlough or had been previously laid off to aid in administrative tasks such as working on the patient record system, scheduling appointments and completing check-ins. UHS has also partnered with the Berkeley Medical Reserve Corps to help monitor individuals during the 15-minute resting period after vaccination.

“Each week we reach out to eligible students based on our weekly allotments, and we reach out to certain student populations on campus based on how much we think we have available to give out because we don’t want to open it too broadly and then not have folks get appointments yet,” said UHS spokesperson Tami Cate.

Vaccine appointments are dependent on weekly Alameda County and Berkeley allotments and possibly the state of California in the future, according to Cate. As of now, she added that appointments are based solely on the local allotment availability.

UC Berkeley offers the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to students and guarantees the second dose to students who receive their first from the UHS vaccine clinic. The vaccine comes at no cost to students.

“Once our scope was changed by the California Department of Public Health to students, we created a COVID Student Vaccine Advisory Group made up of students from different communities with good representation, along with our vaccine clinic leadership,” Cate said. “We’ve been doing some planning work around prioritizing students to ensure there’s an equitable access to the vaccine.”

Due to limited vaccine availability through the clinic, UHS also helps students connect to off-campus vaccination sites by posting information about mass vaccination appointments and using the city of Berkeley’s notification system.

According to Cate, there is currently more vaccine availability in the city and in off-campus sites, as campus distribution is directly tied to the allotments they receive each week.

Campus freshman Mishelle Abusada decided to get her vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic in Alameda County due to its sooner appointment availability.

“I chose to get my vaccine at an off-campus location out of convenience at the time,” Abusada said. “It was before I was aware that I could even get my vaccine through campus, and while I would have waited to receive my vaccine through Berkeley, I thought getting it sooner would be better.”

Campus freshman Kristy Twaalfhoven shared similar thoughts to Abusada, as she would have preferred to use the campus vaccine clinic instead of commuting to a vaccination site.

Students and staff can view data on vaccine administration through campus’ clinic at the UHS COVID-19 immunization dashboard. As of press time, UHS has distributed both doses for 3,952 students and faculty members and a first dose to 5,179 students and faculty members.

“I was initially hoping to get my vaccine through the school, but I also knew there would be a big rush to it once it became available, so since I’m in group housing I thought to just look for alternatives,” Twaalfhoven said. “The process wasn’t too difficult; we just had to know the right websites to use and access for appointments, which was fine.”

Contact Isabella Ruiz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Isabella_Ruiz3.