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‘This is the best of Notre Dame’: University begins vaccinating students at on-campus site

| Monday, April 12, 2021

The University opened the on-campus vaccination site Thursday with plans to vaccinate thousands of students, faculty and staff with both doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by May 6. The first vaccine doses will be given until Thursday, and the second doses will be given between April 29 and May 6.

Courtesy of Matt Cashore and Notre Dame
Frozen boxes with the Pfizer vaccine arrive at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Vice president for campus safety and University operations Mike Seamon said Notre Dame applied to become a closed pod — a vaccination site designated for the Notre Dame community rather than the broader community — a few months ago after the Indiana State Department of Health said vaccines would be made available to college students.

“The only wrinkle was, it was going to be the Pfizer vaccine, which is a great vaccine, but it requires a two-step dance,” Seamon said.

Because the vaccine is a two-step process, the University took rapid action to make sure students could complete both doses before the end of the spring semester, Seamon said.

Despite this pressure to plan quickly, Seamon said the student vaccine clinic, modeled after the St. Hedwig’s vaccination site in South Bend, makes it fast and easy for students to get vaccinated.

“Our number one job was to make this a really convenient, easy, accessible experience for the students,” Seamon said.

When students walk into Compton Family Ice Arena, they are greeted at the door and asked if they are feeling sick, and if they have an appointment. After answering these questions, students make their way to the main registration desk to show their student ID and officially check in. After registration is complete and a student’s appointment is confirmed, they sit at one of 18 vaccination stations, where a medical professional once again verifies the student’s information and administers the vaccine.

After the student receives the first dose, the vaccination site worker registers the student for a second dose exactly three weeks to the day and time of their first dose. Finally, students sit in a designated waiting area for 15 minutes in order to ensure no adverse reactions occur, and they tap their ID on the way out in order to help keep count of how many students have been vaccinated.

Courtesy of Matt Cashore and Notre Dame
Staff and volunteers prepare to open the Notre Dame student, faculty and staff vaccine clinic in the Compton Family Ice Arena auxiliary rink.

Seamon said there is no line and the entire process takes only 20 to 22 minutes on average, including the 15-minute wait time. He added that student reactions to the clinic have been uplifting.

“This is the best of Notre Dame,” Seamon said. “[The students are] happy. They’re excited. We’ve seen hugs. We’ve seen high fives. It’s a really positive experience, so we’re happy to be able to facilitate it.”

First-year Lauren Amrol, who received the vaccine Thursday, said the process was streamlined and convenient.

“The vaccine set-up in the Compton Arena was extremely efficient and enjoyable,” Amrol said in an email. “It was so well organized. It was clear where to go, and the staff were so friendly and welcoming throughout the entire process.”

Seamon echoed Amrol’s praise for the site’s staff, including both the medical professionals and the volunteers working.

“We have over 100 volunteers a day working in the site that aren’t on the medical team, and they are faculty, staff members and even students,” Seamon said. “It’s awesome. I think we’ve had over 400 people sign up to be volunteers in this first eight-day period.”

Robert Easley, chair of the IT, analytics and operations department, volunteered at the check-in and said he enjoyed witnessing and interacting with the new IT system provided by the state to coordinate the vaccinations.

Easley said he decided to volunteer out of gratitude for the academic year and to help ensure even more positive experiences in the upcoming year.

“I have been so grateful for the courageous stand Notre Dame took in the run-up to last fall by deciding that live interactions in the classroom would remain the norm here,” Easley said in an email. “I am optimistic for next fall and want to do whatever I can to help get us to an even better experience by then.”

Director of talent consulting in the office of human resources Linda Costas also volunteered at check-in. She, too, said she volunteered out of appreciation for Notre Dame students and the University.

“The University of Notre Dame would not have a purpose if not for our students. They are the reason we are here,” Costas said. “Volunteering gives me a chance to support our students and to support this great university.”

Aside from the volunteers, Seamon said medical professionals from the testing center as well as the nurses, EMTs, Indiana University medical students, firemen, policemen, physicians from local hospitals and many who worked the Flu Vaccine Blitz in the fall semester will be pivotal in vaccinating thousands of students.

“It really makes you emotional looking at people who are making a difference for the health of the Notre Dame community and the greater regional community by participating in this,” Seamon said.

These medical staff and volunteers help make the student clinic a simple process, he said.

“It will never get easier for students or faculty to get vaccinated than it is through this [clinic],” Seamon said. “They can walk here. They can ride their bike here. It’s a 20-minute process. It’s easy. It’s awesome.”

Still, some students remain reluctant to sign up for the vaccine, such as those who voice concerns over the use of fetal cell lines to test the Pfizer vaccine in its early development stages or over the vaccine’s temporary side effects.

Esteban Alfaro Salas, a graduate student who received the vaccine Thursday morning, said his peers should get the vaccine to protect others.

“Science says that getting this vaccine is how humankind will protect itself from getting sick from COVID,” Alfaro Salas said in an email. “If not for yourself, at least do it for the people around you.”

Courtesy of Matt Cashore and Notre Dame
Graduate student Esteban Salas gets a bandage after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on the first day of the Notre Dame student, faculty and staff vaccine clinic in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Seamon said every student who is vaccinated receives information about potential short-term side effects and is encouraged to reach out to University Health Services (UHS) if symptoms persist.

In addition, he said students who are vaccinated should not report side effects on their daily health check and should instead reach out to professors if side effects impact attendance or academic performance.

“Someone might not feel well and might not be able to go to class the next day, so we’ve asked for everybody’s understanding,” Seamon said. “[Professors] understand the good of getting this done.”

Seamon said he is proud to be part of the vaccination effort and hopeful that the University will reach their 90% goal this spring.

“It’s moving,” Seamon said. “This is a Notre Dame moment, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

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