UTEP becomes a COVID-19 vaccine provider

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Eligible UTEP students will be able to apply for grants from the American Rescue Plan for outstanding debt beginning July 19.

Anahy Diaz, Editor In Chief

UTEP is set to assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts in El Paso by serving as a COVID-19 vaccine provider as early as the week of Jan.18.  

According to a campus wide email sent out by UTEP President Heather Wilson, the Texas Department of State Health Services has approved and provided 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the university’s faculty, staff and students based on risk. 

“We want to take care of our people so that we can teach, research and serve without the constraints that the pandemic has put on us,” Wilson wrote. “…Our School of Pharmacy, our software team, our environmental health staff, our facilities workers, our managers and dozens of others chose to develop their gifts in a way that is desperately needed at this moment.” 

The University’s new Interdisciplinary Research Building (IDRB) will serve as the vaccination program site, which according to Wilson, is prepared to vaccinate 480 people a day, scalable to 960 a day in an 8-hour shift.  

The University plans to have the site operational by the week of Jan.18 for individuals in the highest priority group. According to the email, this includes healthcare workers in clinical settings working directly with COVID-19 positive patients, those who work in long-term care facilities, emergency medical teams, home health care providers, hospice workers, outpatient staff who work with symptomatic patients, community pharmacy staff, public health workers, people involved in COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs, school nurses and those who work in mortuaries.  

As of Jan. 11, 1,217 faculty, staff and students were signed up in this group.  

If doses remain, Wilson said the University will begin vaccinating individuals who are 65 and older or 18 and older whose health conditions makes them vulnerable to COVID-19.  

As of Jan. 11, 1,634 faculty, staff and students were signed up for this group. 

According to Wilson, there will be no walk-in vaccinations. Only UTEP faculty, staff and students who have signed up and completed all of the paperwork at vaccinequestionnaire.utep.edu will be contacted for vaccination.  

However, while Wilson said the UTEP vaccine system is set to vaccinate the 27,000 faculty, staff and students who are enrolled or employed at the University, it is also prepared to serve families, alumni and citizens generally if state or local authorities require assistance.  

“This may be particularly important as the supply of vaccines increases in the coming weeks,” Wilson said in the email. “We want to take care of our people so that we can teach, research and serve without the constraints that the pandemic has put on us.”  

Individuals will be asked to remain at the vaccination site for at least 15 minutes after the injection to monitor any immediate side effects. They will also receive follow-up instructions by email, including when to return for the second dose of vaccine, with UTEP policies on masks and distancing on campus set to remain in effect.  

“All of us benefit because we live in an educated community where people have sought knowledge and are using that knowledge to improve the health of our community. Our lives are better because of them,” wrote Wilson. 

As of Jan. 19, the start of the spring semester, UTEP continues to operate at a low density level  of its recovery plan, allowing only on-campus work for people with approved work plans and gatherings of no more than 50 individuals.  

However, in a previous email sent out by Wilson at the end of Fall 2020, the president said 

UTEP will start to plan for increasing activities on campus the week after Spring Break, March 22, with further expansion of activities starting April 5.   

“We expect campus operations in Fall 2021 will not be constrained by COVID-19, and that may begin as early as Summer 2021,” Wilson wrote. “That will give us the opportunity to use what we have learned during this pandemic and come back better than we were before.” 

During the week of Jan. 11- 17, UTEP’s Coronavirus Proactive Testing Program reported a total of 34 positive cases and 6 self-reported positive cases, with 11 positive cases having been on campus 14 days prior to diagnosis. 

Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected]; @by_anahydiaz on Twitter.