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Vaccine rollout begins on campus

Following an allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to the College, St. Olaf has begun to distribute vaccinations through on-campus clinics. The first clinic took place April 8, distributing 100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The next one will take place this week. 

Students, faculty and staff that received the vaccine fell into Phases 1A and 1B, as outlined by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The vaccine clinics follow an increase of on campus cases. As of April 14, 39 students are in isolation and 83 are in quarantine.

The College received 200 doses for another round of vaccine distribution, according to Vice President for Advancement and Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis. These will be made available for students who qualify as essential workers on campus, such as those in the post office and Bon Appetit.

Blazis said the College requested the brand Johnson & Johnson and even more than 200 doses for the next clinics but neither request was approved, and the doses will be either Pfizer or Moderna.

As of April 13, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have called for a pause in distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following six reported cases of blood clots, and the vaccine is currently undergoing a review. 

“Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine pause should not greatly affect the St. Olaf vaccine clinics or the availability of the vaccine in other distribution points (pharmacies and other clinics),” Blazis said. “The larger issue for the St. Olaf vaccine clinics is simply the overall availability of COVID-19 vaccines in Minnesota and Rice County.”

Blazis also confirmed the College has been vaccinating Public Safety Workers and Residence Assistants for at least four weeks.

The on-campus clinic is partnered with Northfield Urgent Care and is in cooperation with the Rice County Distribution Center in Faribault. Student Life assists with transportation to the Faribault site.

“My preference would be [to say], ‘Give us enough vaccines and we’ll just get everybody vaccinated,” Blazis said.

The vaccine distribution follows a first come, first serve process. When vaccine appointments are available, Rice County contacts the College to alert students. However, the College cannot reserve the slots for the student.

“So, it’s a little convoluted how that all works,” Blazis said regarding the process of vaccine distribution. “You have to be nimble, to put it mildly.”

Students are encouraged to keep an eye out for vaccine updates on campus and in the surrounding area through resources such as the MDH and the vaccine finder websites.