In the following message to the Drexel community, Drexel President John Fry and Marla Gold, MD, Director of Return to Campus Operations, provide an update on Drexel's efforts to secure access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dear Students and Colleagues,
At this very moment, the COVID-19 vaccine is being offered across the nation in a phased approach recommended by an expert advisory panel. Under Phase IA, health care workers and those living in long term care facilities are receiving their vaccinations. This is an encouraging milestone, and a true testament to the power of science. While access to the vaccine for other groups is limited currently, we want to let you know what Drexel is doing to help make the vaccine more widely available to students, faculty and professional staff in the weeks ahead.
We have more questions than answers at this point, including whether the University will be allocated its own supply of vaccine for distribution according to the phased approach. Drexel has not directly received any vaccine to date, nor has the University vaccinated any individuals. But we are in regular contact with public health officials as to the availability of a vaccine for members of our community.
In Philadelphia, the Department of Public Health is in charge of vaccine distribution and has informed us that they are still focused on the Phase 1A group, the first to be treated. The Health Department is working directly with hospitals, who, in turn, are offering vaccine to their health care providers. In addition, the Health Department included in Phase 1A persons who work at COVID-19 testing sites, including those at Philadelphia colleges and universities who care for students and do testing.
Once again, Drexel has requested vaccine and offered to fully staff our own immunization clinics, but the city so far has declined, citing the need to remain focused on the Phase 1A group and the small amount of vaccine coming into the city for distribution at this time. We also have inquired about the definition of teacher as it applies to vaccine eligibility, and whether it would include our faculty. We are waiting to hear back from health authorities concerning this issue.
The University will continue to work with the city and state in an effort to secure vaccine, should officials decide to distribute it directly to universities. In the meantime, the Return Oversight Committee is working with some members of the Science Advisory Group on identifying populations among various vaccine priority phase groups who should be offered vaccine if and when any vaccine comes directly to Drexel for distribution.
The current distribution of vaccine has given rise to state-to-state and even county-level variability in who can access these immunizations. This, in turn, can result in apparent inequities. During this time, Drexel will continue to support evidence-based distribution of available vaccine while strongly advocating for its students, faculty and professional staff.
As of now, our immediate focus is on ensuring vaccine access for our health care students and some faculty who work and train on the front line. While we map a path forward, please continue to check Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website and follow health officials’ advice on safeguarding yourself and others. And, of course, your family doctor or other health-care providers may be able to provide guidance on acquiring a vaccination sooner.
We understand the importance and the sense of urgency that accompanies the issue of access to the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for faculty and professional staff who will be working on campus in the coming months. Please know we will do everything possible as a university community to help as many individuals as possible acquire a vaccination, and we will update you as we learn more.
Marla J. Gold, MD
Director, Return to Campus Operations