As health care workers around the world race to get the COVID-19 vaccine distributed, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has joined the effort by opening a vaccination clinic in the Southern Management Corporation (SMC) Campus Center.
The clinic is staffed by volunteers made up of UMB faculty and staff, UMB’s Office of Emergency Management, as well as student volunteers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), and University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP).
“We know that we need to get as many people vaccinated as possible in order to get to the other side of this pandemic,” said Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Bill and Joanne Conway Dean, UMSON. “To have our students be able to play such an essential role in this process means a great deal. Especially because we’re also giving back to the community in the process, which is so important.”
The clinic is open for appointment only to Baltimore City residents who have been referred by the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) as well as eligible faculty, staff, and students from UMB and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). The central position of the SMC Campus Center provides a convenient location for West Baltimore residents to get vaccinated and an opportunity for students to get clinical experience.
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“To be able to vaccinate the population, we have to be able to accommodate the surrounding community,” said Veronica Quattrini, DNP, FNP-BC, senior director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at UMSON. “It’s amazing when you see the amount of people that have been trained and are so willing to be part of this effort. It has been a really great experience to see how we all came together in this emergency situation.”
Several students actually decided to give up one of their clinical rotations so they could volunteer their time at the SMC Campus Center Vaccination Clinic. Students from UMSOP work behind the scenes to prepare each dose of the vaccine while students from UMSOM and UMSON administer the vaccine directly to community members. They all agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they felt a responsibility to be a part of.
“We’re here to prevent the spread of COVID, and I think the vaccine is the No. 1 resource for people to get to protect themselves,” said David Lee, UMSON student and volunteer at the vaccination clinic. “As a nursing student, I feel so very privileged be here to help. Some people who come in have never had a shot before, so they’re scared of needles. It feels great to be there to comfort them and give them a potentially life-saving vaccine.”
Michelle Peakes, a Baltimore City resident, says she felt scared not to get the vaccine. As a person over the age of 65, Peakes is a high-risk individual, so she signed up to get her shot as soon as she was able to get an appointment through BCHD.
“I don’t want to take any chances,” Peakes said as she was waiting in line to receive the Moderna vaccine. “I believe it’s a death threat for anyone who doesn’t get it. I just don’t want to take any chances if I don’t have to.”
Adrian Anderson, who also received the Moderna vaccine at the SMC Campus Center clinic, agreed THAT it’s essential for everyone to get vaccinated. She lost an uncle to COVID-19 in April 2020, and her mother recently was diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized at UMMC.
“I was initially very hesitant to get the vaccine, but as time went on I began to realize that more people were getting sick and the numbers were not falling down,” she said. “I went ahead and made a conscious decision to get the vaccine and stop the spread to protect others and my own family. COVID has been wreaking havoc on all of the world, so we all need to get this vaccine so we can protect the community as a whole.”
Organizers of the clinic are working to collaborate with several local organizations to reach specific, at-risk populations in the Baltimore area. These organizations include the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Esperanza Center to reach Spanish-speaking individuals, and the Indian Health Service to reach individuals of Native American descent. In addition, UMB’s Community Engagement Center has started a canvassing effort to help West Baltimore residents get signed up for the vaccine through the BCHD website.
So far, volunteers at the SMC Campus Center Vaccination Clinic have administered more than 30,000 vaccines to Baltimore community members in priority groups and students, faculty, and staff from UMB and UMMC.
As a thank you to the volunteers who are helping with the vaccination effort, UMB has revived its Food for the Front Lines initiative, which provides free lunches to essential personnel working at the vaccination clinic. All of the lunches are purchased from small businesses in West Baltimore to help support local businesses.
(Note: Since this article was published, eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations at the SMC Campus Center has expanded to include anyone over the age of 16, regardless of whether they live, work, or learn in the city of Baltimore. This includes all students, faculty, and staff of UMB, as well as alumni, family members, friends, and neighbors. To schedule a vaccination go to GetTheVaccineBaltimore.org.)