The Southern Utah University Health & Wellness Center finished up its last vaccination clinic for the year on Dec. 7. The clinics were an overall success, leading to over 100 faculty members and staff receiving vaccinations.
The first vaccine clinic held at SUU was on Sept. 14. Prior to the clinics, multiple forums were held for students and faculty to ask questions and voice concerns about the university’s COVID-19 policies, especially concerning a potential vaccine mandate for the upcoming spring 2022 semester. In addition, a survey was conducted amongst students to determine students’ vaccination rates and opinions on mandatory vaccination.
In an email to staff and students, Interim President Mindy Benson said, “We value the discussions we’ve had with the leadership of the faculty senate, the staff association, the student association and hundreds of individuals across campus.”
Shortly following the first clinic and survey, Benson announced that the school would not be implementing a mandate.
“We have determined it would not be prudent for our institution–at this time–to implement a vaccine requirement for students. Circumstances, available health solutions and what is permitted under COVID-related laws may change,” said Benson. “This is an evolving pandemic and we will continue to evaluate all of this and engage with public health officials and our campus community. In the meantime, we strongly encourage and ask you to become vaccinated.”
At least four Utah institutions have announced a vaccine mandate including the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Utah State University and Weber State University. The Utah Board of Higher Education continues its trajectory to allow students the opportunity to pursue schooling in-person while taking necessary precautions.
In encouraging students, faculty and other campus affiliates to protect one another, SUU’s Health & Wellness Center and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department provided four clinics to receive the COVID-19 vaccine which have been successful in increasing vaccinations rates across campus.
Though SUU does not have a vaccine mandate in place, vaccines are important and highly recommended among college students to protect themselves and others as they carry the ability to transmit the disease to large numbers of people.
“College students interact with a large number of people and travel a lot, especially over the holidays and breaks,” said Nathan Cleverly of SWPHD. “These factors put them at a much higher risk to give and receive COVID.”
By getting vaccinated, students help put a stop to the spread of COVID cases and protect loved ones and student peers as well as professors. As more students become vaccinated, there is a higher probability of campus remaining open and classes in person for semesters to come.
“Thank you to all the faculty, staff and students who have already been vaccinated. We also plead with you to wear masks indoors and in classroom settings,” said Bensen. “We know the best way to remain open and keep campus safe is to follow public health guidelines, including vaccination, mask usage, testing, social-distancing and proper health hygiene.”
The Health & Wellness Center takes great responsibility in providing a safe and healthy learning environment throughout the faculty and students at SUU. Collaborating efficiently with other organizations like the SWPHD is essential for maintaining and achieving campus health goals.
“We work very well with the SUU health center,” said SWPHD employee Mike Gale. “We’ve done lots of clinics already so things between us and SUU run very smoothly.”
When asked about the most difficult part of working with the Health & Wellness Center, Gale expressed concern about staffing the clinics. During this pandemic, SWPHD has been extremely busy and understaffed in many instances.
“The hardest part isn’t working with SUU, it’s finding enough employees that can make the trip to Cedar City for the clinic,” explained Gale. “We cover five counties throughout southern Utah, so it can be a real hassle balancing clinics and checkups through all of them.”
Both organizations do all they can to help students and teachers on campus and working together is the best way to provide necessary safety precautions.
“Through the efforts and determination of Southern Utah University, we have been able to make progressive strides in our overall goal to protect our students and staff,” said Madison McBride, a Health & Wellness Center assistant. “Our successful clinic offers our busy students who spend their days immersed in large populated areas a way to easily become vaccinated if they choose.”
Despite obstacles, Gale and Cleverly expressed that they have enjoyed working with the Health & Wellness Center to create an efficient and time-friendly clinic.
“As with the rest of our country, the clinic’s staff is few in numbers,” said Cleverly. “They are strong in the hopes to help those who turn to them for support and trust.”
The last vaccine clinic, despite waning need throughout the semester, administered vaccines or booster shots to almost 30 students and faculty members. Although the SWPHD is not certain whether the clinics will continue into next semester, they encourage everyone to continue to stay up-to-date on their vaccine maintenance including booster shots when the time comes. Regardless, the Health & Wellness Center will continue to push for the school’s safety.
“We would like to thank those who work in these high-risk environments and who have spent their time finding a way to include a vaccine clinic at our university,” said the center. “With each shot given, we come closer to a COVID-free campus.”
The SUU Health & Wellness Center is an on-campus resource that informs and connects students with means available in the community to encourage healthy minds, bodies and relationships. Composed of trained faculty and staff, the Health & Wellness Center offers a unique peer-to-peer experience for students needing help with challenges that impact their physical and mental health. The Health & Wellness Center is located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center in SC 175. To learn more about this resource, visit them online here.
Article by: Aspen English, Paige Crossley, Janessa Jenkins Walker, Isabelle Johnson Randall, and Jo B Shurtliff