COVID vaccine administered on Siena, UAlbany campuses amid trickle of new infections

Wendy Fung of Schenectady receives her COVID-19 vaccine from RN Catherine Lucas at SUNY Schenectady Tuesday

Wendy Fung of Schenectady receives her COVID-19 vaccine from RN Catherine Lucas at SUNY Schenectady Tuesday

ALBANY — Capital Region colleges have seen hundreds of COVID infections so far this year, but Tuesday marked the first day most students were eligible to be vaccinated, and some colleges brought the vaccine on site to accelerate the process.

“That’s a huge development for us,” a University at Albany spokesman said of the first on-campus vaccination clinic strictly for the college community, held Tuesday.

Siena College, meanwhile, had 500 doses on hand for its students at a clinic it ran Tuesday, and appointments filled up quickly.

Combined, nearly 500 students at the two colleges have tested positive so far this year, and Albany County health officials have made the college-age demographic a priority as the vaccine supply increases.

County leaders allocated the doses that Siena and UAlbany administered Tuesday, and they have announced that 1,600 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be earmarked for colleges in the county in the near future, exact timing and allocation yet to be determined.

Other colleges are doubtless attempting to accomplish the same thing, but the vaccine remains in short supply, especially now that every New Yorker over age 15 is eligible to receive it.

Union College said Tuesday it has been working with Schenectady County Public Health Services to arrange an on-campus clinic. But thus far it has been unsuccessful, so it’s working to connect members of the college community to off-site points of distribution for the vaccine.

A total of 672 doses were expected to be injected Tuesday at the SEFCU Arena at UAlbany, about 80% of them to UAlbany students, the remainder to students at Russell Sage and Maria colleges. The three colleges collaborated on the vaccination event; Russell Sage and Maria nursing students did the actual injections. 

Staff and faculty were eligible as well, but the great majority of doses were expected to go to students.

“Vaccine alone is not going to solve the problem,” said UAlbany spokesman Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, who was on-site helping to register people for shots Tuesday. “Students, faculty and staff must continue to do the right thing.”

UAlbany canceled spring break this year, so as to limit the chance of students picking up the virus at a vacation spot and bringing it back to campus. Also, the university and police had extensive discussions with students about the expectations and consequences of St. Patrick’s Day partying.

Two weeks after St. Patrick’s Day, there has been no spike in infections on campus and the quarantine rooms are almost all empty, so the students may have taken the message to heart, Carleo-Evangelist said.

Siena’s infection control campaign includes extensive testing, both of people and the wastewater they flush down the toilet; pushing back the start date of the spring semester from late January to late February, so as to avoid the worst of the post-holiday surge; extending the academic year to May 21; and now vaccination.

President Chris Gibson has set a goal of 70% vaccination — cited by some experts as the minimum to start to achieve herd immunity — by the end of the semester.

Siena has optimistically set a May 30 commencement ceremony in the Times Union Center — in-person, though with restrictions.

Here is an update on area colleges’ COVID situation, as reported by their online dashboards. Information is updated as recently as Monday.

  • Hudson Valley Community College: two positive tests in last 14 days, 33 since Jan. 11
  • RPI: 11 positives in last seven days, 129 since Jan. 22
  • Saint Rose: 10 active cases, 140 cases this semester
  • Siena: 21 students currently positive, 245 positive this semester
  • Skidmore: 17 active cases now, 77 total positive tests since August 2020
  • SUNY Adirondack: two positives in last 14 days, six since Jan. 11
  • SUNY Cobleskill: 33 positives in last 14 days, 63 since Jan. 11
  • SUNY Fulton Montgomery: 0 positive tests in last 14 days, 14 since Jan. 11
  • SUNY Schenectady County: one positive in last 14 days, nine since Jan. 11 
  • UAlbany: 28 positives in past 14 days, 238 since Jan. 25
  • Union: 0 students currently infected, 255 positives since Jan. 1

College faculty and staff also have tested positive at most of the schools, but typically in much smaller numbers.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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