Kansas City University of Medicine and Life Sciences (KCU) students in northeast Kansas City and Joplin, Missouri, give Missourians COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dr. Darrin D’Agostino, Executive Dean and Vice Provost of Health at KCU, was involved in the state’s early development plans for vaccine distribution on one of the regional implementation teams with a focus on logistics.
“At this point, due to the stressed health system focused on the sick and those in need of significant health care, we recommended that medical students be involved in this initiative,” said D’Agostino.
Across the state, nursing students, pharmacy students, and other volunteers from many different organizations help with vaccine delivery.
D’Agostino said the KCU wants to be the best possible partner and take care of the communities that the university serves.
“We are focused on providing support and vaccines to decompress the strained health system,” said D’Agostino.
The university also works with the health departments in KC and Joplin, as well as the State Qualified Health Center (FQHC) facilities in these regions, including the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center (SURHC) in Kansas City, to ensure that communities are in need are addressed as efficiently as possible.
“We also conduct listening tours with different communities to understand what information they need to be comfortable when they receive vaccines,” said D’Agostino. “This is vital as the Black and Latinx communities are harder hit by this virus.”
For those who already qualify for a vaccination, they will be given the vaccine. The audio tours are intended to better educate people in communities who do not get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to hopefully reduce any fears.
Communities will benefit from easier and faster access to vaccines, said D’Agostino. KCU students administered or supported nearly 7,000 vaccinations in two weeks, which would otherwise have taken longer or prevented health care providers from other necessary health services.
“Students learn how these interventions save lives and they take part in clinical activities early in their careers,” said D’Agostino. “You will also learn the power of public health initiatives and how they intersect with acute, disease-related health care.”
Many of the student volunteers are first and second year medical students, which means some may have on-site experience, but most do not. Before they started administering vaccines, they were self-vaccinated and have completed and trained in both CDC (Center for Disease Control) and KCU training on vaccines, anatomy and delivery – the actual process of firing To identify complications.
“They are also monitored and approved by our faculty, the nurses, and the health departments they work with,” said D’Agostino. “You are very good.”
One such student is Elizabeth Vasel, one of around 650 volunteers between the two locations. She has fired around 30 shots so far, something she had never done on the field before.
“I know there are a lot of my classmates who have had vaccination experience, but there were also many of us who had our first chance to do something like this,” said Vasel. “There are a lot of us out there so you could really build a workforce with a lot of students, and as a freshman medical student this was a great opportunity to get in and work with patients.”
After observing the pandemic in her freshman year of medical school, Vasel said she and her fellow students were sure to be thrilled to finally be able to help make life a little more normal again. She enjoyed working with her classmates, university faculty, and other professionals.
“They feel like a community, only there everyone is working towards the same goal of getting people vaccinated and I think this pandemic has hit everyone so hard.”
She has heard stories from patients, including many healthcare workers or the elderly, who have faced challenges over the past year and made so many sacrifices to protect themselves and others. It was both emotional and very exciting.
“It seems like people in general were excited, or at least very happy, to get the vaccine,” said Vasel. “They share, so to speak, all the things that they look forward to when they can spend more time with their grandchildren or travel more. Overall, it was an absolute privilege to be able to contribute to our whole life returning to a feeling of normalcy. “
The St. Louis native Vasel attended an undergraduate degree at Rockhurst University. She made a move into healthcare early on and while keeping her options open, she first took inspiration from her pediatrician.
“My mother is a nurse and I love hearing all the stories and things she would see every day at work,” said Vasel. “When I grew up, I really liked my pediatrician. She always made me feel like a person and she listened to me, so I really said, “Oh my god, I love her,” and I would love to be that for someone one day. “
Students administer vaccines on-site at the KCU campus, SURHC, the Kansas City North Community Center, the HCA Midwest Health locations in Shawnee and Olathe, the Kansas City Health Department, various National Guard locations, the Bruce R. Watkins Health Center and wherever it is needed across the community.
“Obviously, I never expected to start studying medicine this way, but it really cemented my commitment to providing education and compassionate care for the most vulnerable in our community,” said Vasel.
Communities need more vaccines in the state, D’Agostino said. Missouri received 80,000 doses a week, and that number increased to about 120,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines last week. D’Agostino said this is likely to increase rapidly as emergency approval is given to other vaccines.
“We should have done the mass vaccination clinics to make sure the Missouri Phase 1A and 1B residents get vaccinated quickly, and then we can move to Phases 2 and 3 quickly,” D’Agostino said.
The program will last as long as needed, but D’Agostino said they currently have plans for 16 weeks. After that, the student workforce is available for vaccination measures that may develop in the future, e.g. B. for annual flu vaccinations or COVID-19 vaccines.