- Health and Wellness
- Community Impact
- Our City/Our Campus
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The coronavirus pandemic has a second March milestone, at least for the Pitt community.
On March 26, 2021, just over a year after the pandemic began, 1,049 people were vaccinated against the coronavirus at a clinic held at Pitt’s Petersen Events Center. Though Pitt had hosted other mass vaccination clinics in the weeks before, this event was a milestone for Pitt’s vaccination initiative. The shots administered on campus were allotted to the University Pharmacy directly from state and federal sources for the first time.
The benefit of Pitt acquiring its own vaccine stream was twofold, said Melissa McGivney, associate dean for community partnerships at the School of Pharmacy and a leader of the Pitt CoVax initiative.
“We were able to integrate our health professional students into the work of providing care to our campus,” said McGivney. “Under the supervision of faculty pharmacists, students served their peer community by staffing all aspects of our vaccine clinics from greeting patients, navigating vaccine guests in wheelchairs to administering shots.”
“Securing a Pitt-allocated vaccine supply also meant we could host off-campus vaccine clinics when our community partners requested support,” McGivney said.
The people behind Pitt CoVax clinics demonstrated an oft-learned lesson of the pandemic: When people come together, good things happen.
To commemorate the anniversary of the March 26 vaccine clinic, Pittwire gathered stats, collected our favorite photos from the Pitt CoVax clinics and spoke to some of the student volunteers, interns, faculty and staff who helped administer nearly 30,000 shots — and counting.
If you’re due for a booster or need a flu shot, appointments are still available at the Pitt CoVax Vaccination Center in Nordenberg Hall.
By the numbers
1,173 student volunteers affiliated with 14 schools helped put almost 30,000 shots in arms at 192 vaccination clinics. The schools represented are: College of General Studies, College of Business Administration, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, School of Computing and Information, School of Dental Medicine, School of Education, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Law, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, School of Public Health, School of Social Work and Swanson School of Engineering.
The volunteers worked with 10 community partners: Allegheny County Health Department, Birmingham Free Clinic, Primary Care Health Services/Alma Illery Medical Center, Homewood Children’s Village, Neighborhood Resilience Project, Macedonia FACE, The Pittsburgh Community Vaccine Collaborative (Hill District), the Black COVID-19 Equity Coalition, Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Homewood Brushton YMCA.
11 Pitt offices and units supported clinic operations: Environmental Health and Safety, Pitt Information Technology, Petersen Events Center staff, Pitt EATS, Public Safety and Emergency Management, Pitt Media, Office of University Communications and Marketing, Office of Risk Management, Health Sciences Legal Counsel, Office of Government Relations, and Office of Engagement and Community Affairs.
In their own words
Here’s what some of the volunteers and staffers had to say about their work over the past year.
Patrick Pugliese, University Pharmacy manager
“If there is one thing I will take away from this experience, it is the power of the Pitt community. Getting the vaccine was just the first of many, many steps. The COVID-19 vaccination effort on campus involved a level of University-wide collaboration that I have never experienced before. So many moving pieces had to come together in a constantly changing environment to make this effort successful. Although our meetings were either socially distant in-person or virtual on Zoom, it often felt like the University community had never been closer as we came together to accomplish a single goal.”
Julianna Keith, School of Nursing student
“I began volunteering at the vaccine clinic as a part of Pitt’s nursing school clinical rotation. Due to the pandemic, in-patient clinical hours for nursing students were limited to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When Pitt began holding vaccine clinics, the opportunity to get additional hours arose. After I completed my required hours, I continued to volunteer throughout the term.
“The clinic was a true team effort. In the classroom, we learn a lot about the power of a cohesive interdisciplinary team, but the opportunities to see that truly coming to fruition are limited. However, the vaccine clinic was a perfect example of that. Every member made an impact — from check-in, to the pharmacist drawing up vaccine, to the students administering it, to the documenters. That was one of the main reasons I kept volunteering — everyone was a part of the team. Everyone was invited to take part in something bigger than their course syllabus, bigger than the University and bigger than themselves.”
Rebecca Brown, School of Medicine student in the Physician Scientist Training Program
“One of the beautiful things about working at the vaccine center is that you have a chance to really talk and get to know the people that you're serving. I was impressed by the breadth of the Pitt community I was vaccinating — from children to professors and maintenance workers.
“I was one of a few medical students staffing the vaccination clinics, and it was powerful to get to know and build strong interprofessional relationships with different specialties than mine. I interacted with pharmacists, nursing students, physician assistant students and students earning public health degrees. The experience cemented some humility in me. I will be a doctor one day, and I am only one small aspect of a care team. My time working in the Pitt CoVax Vaccination Center solidified my respect and gratitude for others’ roles too.”
Amy Giles, Pitt CoVax Vaccination Center manager
“Managing the Pitt CoVax Vaccination center has taught me about the resiliency and the determination of people that are doing something for the good of others. We've had students, staff members and faculty go above and beyond to ensure that we have coverage or enough vaccinators. They would do whatever it took to make it happen. That happened over and over again, not just one or two people, but the whole staff of people. We had 50 people going into an event, from the beginning to the end, doing whatever it took to ensure that we got everybody taken care of.”
Trish Klatt, Pitt CoVax Vaccination Center clinical director
“We’ve vaccinated almost 300 kids so far. Vaccinating children is a great experience for our learners, our student volunteers and interns, because most health care environments do not include healthy children — except for yearly checkups, we normally only see children in a medical setting when sick or injured. Our staff worked hard to create an environment that is fun and welcoming for kids: coloring pages, toy race cars and child-sized furniture.
“We ask children to decide on their ‘poke plan,’ which means letting them choose ahead of time if they want to sit on their parent’s lap when receiving their shot or sit in their chair, and do they want to watch their shot being given or do they want to look away. We also give children an empty syringe without the needle and show them how the plunger is pushed down and injects the vaccine liquid. The children that visit our clinic receive candy before and after their shots; you can never have too much candy on hand — and a star squeezy.”
Anna Ruzicka, School of Public Health student
“I chose to volunteer at the CoVax Center because I wanted to help make our Pitt community safer. It was a great opportunity to gain direct public health experience and apply what I was learning in the classroom about health economics, governmental regulations and many other subjects.
“I am most proud of our team's consistency throughout the inconsistencies of the pandemic. Our team constantly has to adjust to changing eligibility guidelines, new recommendations and emerging research, and I will face similar circumstances in my career in health policy. I see every vaccine that we administer as a victory and a critical piece of improving the public health of our Pittsburgh community.”
Abby Stewart, School of Pharmacy student
“The initial clinics were fast-paced and accelerated my learning as a vaccinator, clinical reviewer and overall patient care provider. The sheer number of patients I was able to interact with fostered an environment for efficient learning and growth. I learned that one of the most important services offered at the clinics aside from the physical provision of vaccines was simply answering questions and providing education. Whether those questions were about how the vaccine works, the rapid development and safety of the vaccines, or even what to expect following vaccination, providing clarification can play a major role in a patient’s ultimate decision.
“Like so many others, I wanted to help protect individuals and our community against COVID-19. I volunteered because I knew the mass vaccination clinics were a huge undertaking and hundreds or thousands of volunteers were needed to make it a success. It was so fulfilling to see hundreds of people lined up every day, eager to protect themselves and others against a virus that had caused so much loss, grief and fear for nearly a year.”
— Nichole Faina, with assistance from Micaela Corn