By Samantha Hilyer
Saint Vincent College has opened its doors to Mainline Pharmacy in order to set up a vaccine clinic in the Fred Rogers Center. The Moderna vaccine is being distributed to eligible community members in Pennsylvania’s 1A category, which includes adults over the age of 65 and healthcare workers.
Dr. John Smetanka, vice president of Academic Affairs and academic dean, said that serving as a haven for the local community is nothing new for SVC.
“We are very excited that the vaccine can be distributed on campus,” Smetanka said. “Back in the Depression, Saint Vincent was a place that handed out bread to those who were hungry, in times of war people came here for peace, and I am very pleased that in times of pandemic, they can come here for the vaccine.”
Saint Vincent is not requiring eligible faculty and staff to receive the vaccine, but those who wish to be vaccinated have the opportunity. Smetanka, who received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine during Mainline Pharmacy’s first clinic at Saint Vincent, said that he found the experience as “easy as getting a flu shot.” He reported that he had the same arm pain as when receiving a flu vaccine, but he did not experience any other side effects. He and many of those who also received the first dose during the first clinic were scheduled to receive their second dose—which can come with flu-like symptoms/side effects—on Feb. 23.
The process, after a total of three clinics, has been streamlined since the start of the clinic on campus in January 2021, in which long lines formed and some people waited around two hours to receive the vaccine. However, the space is now effectively arranged so that there is almost no wait time and the entire process is easier and safer, according to Smetanka.
Those seeking vaccinations can wait in their cars if they arrive early. At their appointment time, they register in the downstairs portion of the Fred Rogers Center, go upstairs to receive the vaccination, and then enter the banquet room to wait out a 15-minute observation period—to make sure the recipients have no allergic reaction to the vaccine—in a socially distanced fashion. After the observation period, the recently vaccinated can head home.
Around 700 people came to each clinic and the total number of those who have been vaccinated is about 2,000—most of which are members of the general population and the broader community surrounding Saint Vincent.
The first clinic included Duquesne students as volunteer vaccinators, but now the volunteers are Saint Vincent graduate and Excela Health nursing students.
Smetanka is hopeful that the continued distribution of the vaccine will lead to normalcy of life sooner rather than later.
“What we would really like to see happen is all of our students get vaccinated by the end of the semester,” Smetanka said.
However, Smetanka mentioned that there are many variables in this hopeful plan, such as distribution process speed and the availability of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires a single dose as opposed to two.
For now, Saint Vincent has been able to assist in the local distribution of the vaccine to those who are most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.