October 21, 2021

Campus guards against COVID

Colleges work to get students vaccinated before they leave school

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A SUNY Cortland student walks to a vaccination clinic Friday on campus. With the state expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccines, colleges have been working to vaccinate students before they leave for the semester.

When SUNY Cortland freshman Erin Harty saw an email last week from the college notifying students of free Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccines being administered Friday, she jumped at the chance to get one.

“It’s really nice they gave it to us for free,” she said. “At home, I’d probably have to pay or jump through hoops to get one.”

With the state expanding eligibility last week for COVID vaccines to people 16 and up and the college spring semester ending next month, colleges have been working to vaccinate students before they leave campus.

At SUNY Cortland, more than 500 doses of the Johnson and ohnson vaccine were a tered Friday.

“We’re very excited that a proportion of our students will be vaccinated,” college President Erik Bitterbaum said. About 800 students have been living in residence halls on campus this semester with 2,000 to 3,000 living off campus.

The college received vaccines through the SUNY system as it worked to provide the vaccine to all 64 schools. Doses were administered by Cortland County Health Department workers, he said.

Administering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose, meant students wouldn’t have to worry about getting a second dose before leaving, he said. It’s also appealing to people who don’t like shots.

Bitterbaum said he wasn’t sure if more Johnson and Johnson vaccines would be administered at the college for students as availability to the county health department is known on a week by week basis.

“If we can get more Johnson and Johnson vaccines, we’ll continue,” he said.

Whether students will be required to be vaccinated when they return for the fall will depend on what SUNY decides, Bitterbaum said.

Tompkins Cortland Community College is in the process of coordinating getting its residential students vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, as well, said Deb Mohlenhoff, the associate vice president for college relations.

The college is working with Ithaca College, Cornell University, Cayuga Health System and the Tompkins County Health Department in setting up a vaccination clinic for students Thursday in the Ithaca Mall, she said.

Mohlenhoff did not have further details Friday as plans were still being discussed — including how to get students from campus to the mall.

“Any way in which we can encourage and support anyone who wants to be vaccinated, we’re all in,” she said, adding the clinic will be focused on campus students and said she hoped commuter students have had or will have a chance to get vaccines elsewhere.