By Morgan Culp
Florida has become a COVID-19 hotspot and the Tampa Bay area is having to plan for major upcoming events such as the Super Bowl and Gasparilla with COVID-19 safety precautions in mind, such as social distancing. Many Tampa residents hope that the COVID-19 vaccine is something that will get Tampa back on track and limit the additional COVID-19 precautions.
The COVID-19 vaccine is not available to everyone yet; people are currently being vaccinated in priority groups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a phase system has been enacted to put those most at risk first on the list for vaccinations. They have broken it down as so:
Phase 1a – Healthcare personnel, long-term care facility residents
Phase 1b – Frontline essential workers, people 75 years and older
Phase 1c – People 65-74 years and older, people 16-64 with medical conditions, other essential workers
Phase 2 – All other groups—including college students
According to Hillsborough County’s website, Phase 1 is underway only including long term care facility workers and residents, people over 65, and healthcare personnel with direct contact. Hillsborough County says Phase 2 will not begin until March with a significant increase of vaccine availability. Hillsborough County predicts a Phase 3 will begin in April with an ample supply of vaccines available to the general public.
Many universities are starting discussions on requiring students, staff, or faculty to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes readily available. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, requiring vaccinations is not unprecedented and has previously helped decrease the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases on college campuses. Temple University, Howard University, Ursinus College, and others plan to push for students to get the COVID-19 when it becomes available to them. But as for now, it is too soon to say if UT will make the vaccine a requirement.
“The University of Tampa is closely monitoring vaccine development and state and federal distribution plans,” said Eric Cardenas, UT Director of Public Information and Publications. “We will look to the CDC and the state health department for guidance regarding administration, efficacy and impact on the campus community.”
Many students do not think UT is doing all that they can to inform students about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and how the phasing process works.
“I only know how to get the vaccine because I am a nursing student and I work in the hospital around patients,” said Ishani Chetal, junior nursing major. “I’ve been wanting to get the vaccine and nursing students can in Florida now, even though UT does not require us to get it.”
Chetal is on a list to receive the vaccine when a new shipment gets in—so far she has been waiting four days and has not been given any approximation as to how much longer it will take to receive her first round of vaccinations.
According to Florida Health statistics as of Thursday, Jan. 28, Florida has vaccinated over 1.5 million people and over 70 thousand of those people reside in Hillsborough County.
“The only way these vaccines will mean anything is if people still take precautions and wear masks after they have been vaccinated, and if enough people get vaccinated to create a herd immunity,” Chetal said.