BOONE — Appalachian State University announced Dec. 21 that the university has an agreement with AppHealthCare to serve as a distribution site for the COVID-19 vaccine to faculty, staff and students.
Distribution of the vaccine will be in line with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 vaccination plan. NCDHHS states on its website that “by early 2021, health departments and community health centers will start vaccinating other adults with two or more chronic conditions that make them higher risk for getting COVID-19.” College students are not listed to get the vaccine in North Carolina until phase three. For more information about the state’s vaccination plan, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.
App State spokesperson Megan Hayes said the university will not independently procure, administer or distribute the vaccine.
“With support from the UNC System, we will be well positioned to assist state and local public health officials with storage of the vaccine as part of the state’s implementation of the NCDHHS vaccine distribution plan,” App State Chancellor Sheri Everts said in an email to students.
AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene said in a statement that App State has worked with them to make sure all employees that fall into the Phase 1A distribution have been included in the plans for vaccination.
“Moving forward, there will be ongoing coordination to ensure that staff and students get access to the vaccine according to the NCDHHS phased approach for vaccine distribution,” Greene said in a statement.
Phase 1A of the NCDHHS plan calls for health care workers at high risk for exposure to COVID-19 as well as residents and workers at long-term care facilities to get the vaccine first.
AppHealthCare is finalizing plans for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and anticipates giving out the first immunizations to individuals this week.
“Our community plan includes focusing on long-term care settings that are not participating in the federal program first due to highest risk, and then healthcare personnel,” Greene said in a statement.
In serving as a distribution site, App State and 14 other University of North Carolina System schools will receive cold storage units to store the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to a UNC System press release, “vaccines stored at UNC institutions will be distributed according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan at the direction of state and local public health officials.”
App State will receive four mobile Stirling Ultracold freezer units — two small units and two large units — that have the capacity to store 116,200 vials of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to App State. The cold storage units were purchased by the NC Policy Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and paid for with funds appropriated by the North Carolina General Assembly.
“We appreciate the state legislature’s forward thinking that will enable us to be a part of the local and state response to serve rural areas in our state,” Everts said in the email.
The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory was established in 2016 to utilize expertise across the UNC System for use by state and local governments, according to the UNC System.
Fourteen other universities in the UNC System will also receive a total of 57 storage units that will be able to store a total of 1.86 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Jeffrey Warren, executive director of the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, said in a press release that the UNC system is suited to help store and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Knowing sub-zero storage and transport capability at sub-zero temperatures is critically important to protecting our citizens, I am indebted to the purchasing team at UNC-Chapel Hill who executed the purchasing approvals in just under a week to help increase freezer capacity across each of our 15 research campuses,” Warren said in the release.
Everts also announced in the email to students that the university will pause the daily COVID-19 dashboard from Dec. 24–Jan. 1 while the university is closed. Daily data from that time period will be added on Jan. 2.
Students living in residence halls also received information about entry testing for the spring semester. Those who live on campus are required to submit a negative PCR or antigen COVID-19 test into their MedPortal account before returning to campus.
The COVID-19 test should be completed within five days of a student returning to campus, according to App State. First day of classes is scheduled for Jan. 19; students can start returning to campus residence halls on Jan. 10.