Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier editor-in-chief
On Mar. 26, the President’s Office announced via email that Floyd Medical Center would be offering Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine shots to any student, faculty and staff over 16 years of age.
According to President Steve Briggs, Berry was able to do this because of the relationship that has already been established with Floyd Medical Center through The Spires, it was easier for the institution to quickly set up a time for vaccinations shortly after Gov. Brian Kemp expanded vaccination eligibility on Mar. 18.
“The Spires has a partnership with Floyd for providing medical services to the residents, so when people at The Spires were able to get vaccinated we worked with Floyd Medical Center to provide vaccinations to the residents during the first phase in January and February,” Briggs said. “We talked to [Floyd Medical Center] at that time about being able to help with vaccinating the college if and when things opened up more.”
Because of the number of eligible students on campus, rather than having them commute to Floyd Medical Center for the vaccination, the Center was able to come to Berry for two days.
“I think being in Rome is helpful because it is a medical town as well as our relationships with the medical community, with both hospitals and the Harbin Clinic, are great for us in lots of ways,” Briggs said. “Certainly in this moment there’s lots of good will in terms of trying to get our whole community healthy, and I think because Berry works hard to contribute a lot to the community, I think people are happy to try and help us with our needs as well.”
Through the process of testing throughout the semester, the institution has also been able to make connections with other medical agencies including the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Before the school began testing regularly last Oct., they had never worked directly with the CDC. It was through the Georgia Department of Public Health that Berry was put in connection with the CDC and able to become a part of their research.
“Jointly, the three of us were able to work on this project,” Briggs said.
According to Briggs, so far 878 students, faculty, staff and employees have been vaccinated through the school’s partnership with Floyd Medical Center and an additional 583 employees and students were vaccinated prior to the school’s offering of the vaccine. This brings the total number of vaccinated Berry community members to 1,461 and there is still another day of vaccinations available.
These numbers do not account for the students who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies but did not get the vaccination. Students with the antibodies, however, are still encouraged to receive the vaccination.
Additionally, students and faculty who received a vaccination this week will be able to receive their second dose on the week of Mar. 19.
“With Pfizer you get the second shot three weeks later so that allows us to do [the second dose] the last week of classes and not during finals,” Briggs said.
One of the issues administration is looking at addressing over the summer is whether or not students will be required to have a COVID-19 vaccination in order to return to campus in the fall of 2021. As of right now, receiving the vaccination is completely voluntary.
“Right now the vaccine is under emergency use order, but once [the CDC] says this is a standard of care that changes the conversation a little bit,” Briggs said. “If [COVID-19] persists and continues to cause a fair number of flare ups, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask people to get a vaccine if it’s community health at large, in particular health in a way when there are some real risks.”