Tulane begins COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Vaccine

Elana Bush

A Tulane student stand wearing a mask on Ferret street outside of Devlin Field-house.

Hannah Mayer, News Editor

On Jan. 8, just days before students began their return to campus, Tulane Today sent out a breaking news email informing the Tulane community of an initial COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed by the university. The Louisiana Department of Health has designated Tulane as a COVID-19 vaccine provider, making it one of the first universities in Louisiana to begin distributing the vaccine. Tulane is distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is the first of its kind to receive emergency-use authorization, followed by the Moderna vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration approved the  Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 11 for those 16 and older

“Since we are the largest private employer in New Orleans, the state’s designation of Tulane as a vaccine provider benefits the entire university and New Orleans community,” President Fitts said. “Inoculating those students, faculty and staff at Tulane, as well as other universities such as Xavier, who are on the frontlines of COVID-19 research and community response, is an outgrowth of our initial efforts to confront this pandemic. These efforts, which place Tulane among the national leaders in COVID response, began last fall. They include researching new vaccines and treatments, caring for COVID-19 patients and operating one of the country’s most rigorous testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine programs.”

As of this week, Tulane has begun vaccinating those affiliated with the Tulane and Xavier University communities, complying with the Louisiana Department of Health’s distribution plan. Beginning on Jan. 4, the state started vaccinating those who fall into the Phase 1A and 1B population. The Phase 1A group, which has a population around 249,000, includes hospital personnel, nursing home and long-term-care facility residents and staff, and first responders who serve as vaccinators. The Phase 1B group, which has a population around 640,000, includes persons 70 years and older, outpatient clinic providers and clinic staff, urgent care clinic providers and staff, community care clinic providers and staff, behavioral health clinic providers and staff, dialysis providers and recipients, home health service providers and recipients, dental providers and staff, and schools of allied health students and staff. There are 210 COVID-19 vaccine providers in the state of Louisiana, which include 87 chain pharmacies, 93 independent pharmacies, 20 federally qualified health care centers and 10 healthcare sites. 

In compliance with the state rollout policy, Tulane has begun vaccinating students and staff in the School of Medicine, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the School of Social Work, where students work directly with people in the New Orleans community. The university will also vaccinate Campus Health staff who work directly with infected students and staff and close contacts, frontline food service and custodial staff who engage directly with the student body and employees over 70 years old. The vaccine is to be distributed to each individual in two doses 21 days apart and is to be kept in ultra-cold storage with a temperature between -80 to -60 degrees Celsius. 

Dr. Lee Hamm, who serves as senior vice president and dean of the Tulane School of Medicine, has played a vital role in the vaccine distribution in these past couple of weeks. He has worked closely with the team operating the vaccination clinic, including the Chief Operating Officer, Government Relations personnel, the Tulane University Medical Group and other leadership from the School of Medicine. The team has vaccinated over 1,000 people during its first week of operation.

“The Tulane COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic has seen a successful launch, due to the efforts of a dedicated team who began working with the state as the holiday break began, and continued doing so without pause,” Hamm said. “We have been able to vaccinate members of the Tulane and Xavier University communities that fit within the allowed state guidelines, and look forward to expanding to include other members of our region that are currently covered — as well as working on a plan that will allow us to protect even more individuals, and thereby all of us, as the state expands the eligible groups.”

According to Hamm, Tulane has been working on clinical trials for the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. To find more information about the Tulane COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, email [email protected]