UCF vaccinating first round of faculty members against COVID-19

Vaccine appointments must be made online by invite only

A coronavirus vaccine shot is administered at the Student Health Services at UCF. Image provided by UCF (Nick Leyva, ©University of Central Florida)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The University of Central Florida received a shipment of 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.

Staff with the university’s Student Health Services is administering the vaccines to faculty and students who are 65 or older, as well as university healthcare workers.

Those who are eligible were given an invitation to secure their spot online, allowing UCF to get all 1,000 vaccines distributed before Friday.

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“It’s a really amazing process, unlike any I’ve ever seen before” said Dr. Michael Deichen, the Associate Vice President for Student Health Services and lead physician in the university’s COVID-19 response. “We went out and got the vaccine from a central site in Orlando. It was a box about 2 by 2 filled with dry ice, and in the core of the container was a tray of vaccines.”

UCF accepted Pfizer’s vaccine as a result of having the special sub-zero freezers needed to store it. According to the CDC, doses of this vaccine must be kept between -112 and -76 degrees.

Deichen said UCF has written plans that allow staff to perform up to 4,000 shots per day, when more shipments become available.

“We’re also in conversation with the state about potentially having a mass vaccination clinic run by the state on campus, sort of like what they’re doing at the convention center,” said Deichen.

This all comes as thousands of students return to campus for the first time since November, for the spring semester.

“We’ve developed this multi-layer approach for our students,” said Deichen. “We tested all the students returning to residence halls just this past week. Only less than 1% of them tested positive for COVID, so that was great.”

In addition to the measures taken in the fall semester, the university is also embarking on a waste water surveillance strategy. Chemistry Assistant Professor Melanie Beazley is leading the effort, which tests the human waste discharge from five different residence halls to track the presence of the coronavirus.

With much of the student body returning to on-campus classes, UCF’s Armor Up Ambassadors Program is back in action.

This group of 35 students is dedicated to protecting their fellow Knights by encouraging mask wearing, social distancing, and filling out the COVID self-symptom checker on the UCF app.

“This position means a lot to me because I know that I’m able to do my part and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep my peers safe,” said UCF sophomore Bennett Farrar. “It’s important for everyone to remember that social distancing and masks are still needed and expected even after vaccination.”

These students work in high-traffic areas on campus, reminding their peers to comply with CDC guidelines.

“I am proud to work for a university that prioritizes the campus wellbeing,” said Maureen Hawkins, Director of Wellness and Health Promotion Services, and the program’s coordinator.

As of Dec. 10, the ambassadors had made 50,213 interactions with students and campus visitors.

“I have been in awe of our students, who have risen to the challenge of protecting others, while caring for themselves,” said Hawkins.