Monday, September 20, 2021

An inside look at the student-only COVID-19 vaccination center

April 20, 2021
A student receiving their vaccine at the Michigan State University (MSU) Pavilion on April 15, 2021 in East Lansing.
A student receiving their vaccine at the Michigan State University (MSU) Pavilion on April 15, 2021 in East Lansing. —
Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

The Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education has been the home for showcasing livestock at Michigan State since 1996, but has undergone a transformation to help combat COVID-19 in the mid-Michigan area. 

A COVID-19 vaccination center for Michigan State students to curb the spread of the virus among students has replaced the stage for livestock events. 

The stage is normally used for showcasing livestock, such as cows or pigs, for auction, marking the end of their life as they are sold to the highest bidder. Now, the stage has become a place that helps extend lives as students can become vaccinated against the virus that has claimed over 567,000 lives in the United States according to the New York Times. 

The pavilion has two separate areas, one drive-through clinic that was originally open for those who work or live in Ingham County — though as of Monday, transitioned to a state-wide vaccination clinic — and a walk-up clinic for students.

According to a press release from the Ingham County Health Department, the pavilion will be able to vaccinate 3,000-4,000 people a day with additional personnel, potentially doubling the original 1,600 per day total.

“So, this is our vaccination area," Lt. Dave Oslund, the MSU Police Department emergency management division manager, said. "We've got the students to come in and wait, and then we've got a staff person that directs them to an empty table. We have enough that we can set up 10 vaccination sites within the room.”

The vaccination center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for students. The sign-up process is first come first served for students, but more appointments are added to the website each week. 

“I got an email saying to click a link to schedule an appointment, and it took like maybe two minutes, maybe less than that,” post-baccalaureate medical student Kayla Dos Santos said. “So yeah, it's pretty easy.”

Business freshman Zaggam Cheema searched for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment since the state of Michigan allowed all citizens 16 and older to be vaccinated starting on April 5.

He signed up for appointments at Sparrow but was unable to get an appointment until Michigan State opened up the vaccination center for students on April 9. 

Cheema said he was able to sign up for an appointment through the university via the link sent to all MSU students and had no issues making the appointment. 

“I signed up through the email but not immediately, so when I checked it, there weren't like really any spots left, it was all booked,” said Cheema. “And then I kept checking it after a little bit, and I finally got a spot ... at 10 a.m.”

Cheema arrived at the pavilion at 9:50 a.m. for his appointment and waited outside in the rain to check in. Ten minutes later, he was rolling up his sleeve as the nurse was going through the expected short-term symptoms after the shot.

The process was very quick for Cheema and the other students at the vaccination center. He filled out paperwork in the pavilion lobby, which took less than five minutes after checking in.

Once he completed the pre-shot paperwork, Cheema walked down a narrow hallway from the lobby, which opened up to the auction floor and stands at the pavilion and waited in line for one of the four nurses on duty.

Cheema exchanged pleasantries with the nurse before he rolled up his sleeve and turned his head while the nurse plunged the needle into his bicep. Once he sat down, it took a little over a minute to get the shot.  

After a quick wince and a Band-Aid, Cheema was directed to the stands to sit for 15 minutes to make sure he was all right before leaving. Nurses and an employee walked through the stands to check on students and schedule them for their second shot in the first week of May. 

From start to finish, Cheema’s appointment took approximately 25 minutes before he could leave. Cheema said he felt fine after he was cleared to leave and scheduled his second Pfizer dose at the pavilion on May 6. 

“I feel good,” Cheema said. “It didn't hurt as much as I thought. ... I felt comfortable throughout the whole thing. And they walked me through it, and it went pretty well, better than I thought it would go.”

The switch from Johnson & Johnson to Pfizer

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The ICHD originally supplied the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to MSU but switched to the Pfizer vaccine after the Food and Drug Administration called for a stop to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to blood clotting.

According to university spokesperson Dan Olsen, Michigan State has administered over 2,700 vaccines to students since April 9 at the pavilion. Of the 2,700 administered vaccines, 564 were Johnson & Johnson prior to the switch to Pfizer. The rest of the vaccines were the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Olsen. 

“I would have preferred Johnson & Johnson,” computer science junior Bram Kineman said. “The six blood clot cases don't concern me at all. I mean, I'm a dude. It's like a two-in-one shampoo. If I can get the Johnson, that would be fine. But I'll be back, it's not much of a concern either way.”

Oslund said that the close relationship between the ICHD and MSU was integral in having a seamless transition from Johnson & Johnson to Pfizer. 

“We, in a matter of an hour to an hour and a half on Tuesday, made that switch,” said Oslund. “They pulled the Johnson & Johnson product, we replaced it with Pfizer. We've been using their scheduling system, and it was very quick for them to add another calendar or another couple of weeks in May where we can offer that second dose to students.”

The ICHD assigned volunteers to run the vaccination center, and Oslund and the emergency management division of MSUPD oversee the process. Oslund said that either he or Sgt. Steve Beard is always at the pavilion to ensure they can quickly deal with any problems that may arise. 

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