Resident advisors get approved for vaccine

Mike Weilandt, Staff Reporter

Resident Advisors at Tulane University have now been approved by the state of Louisiana to begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine from the university, per special request from the university.

Since being designated as a vaccine provider by the Louisiana Department of Health back in January, Tulane has inoculated hundreds of individuals approved by state guidelines.

The rollout began soon after the university received a shipment of approximately 5,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Since then, Tulane has administered vaccines rapidly to prioritized individuals. This includes physicians and other frontline healthcare workers, as well as graduate students, residents and staff of allied health schools.

According to Michael Strecker, executive director of public relations, Tulane is limited to criteria set by the state.

As a COVID-19 vaccine provider site designated by the Louisiana Department of Health, Tulane must follow state guidelines regarding vaccine eligibility,” Strecker said.

Certain individuals in uniquely high-risk positions, however, can be inoculated if a special request is made. Tulane Housing and Residence Life recently exercised this option.

Two months of waiting have paid off according to Tim Lempfert, director of HRL, as RAs are now eligible and prioritized for the vaccine after a request was made back in January when the rollout began.

“Due to the very unique role of Resident Advisors, they have been deemed eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Lempfert said. “This was first requested back in January, and we received that approval this week given their unique responsibilities requiring frequent close contact with students.”

The Louisiana Department of Health states that all individuals over 65 years old are eligible for the vaccine, down from 70 years at the start of the vaccine rollout. People aged 55-64 may also be eligible for inoculation. However, without a special request, and most likely a lengthy waiting period, they can only get vaccinated if they have one of the pre-existing conditions listed by the CDC as contributing to the “increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Other faculty and students may be eligible for vaccination if they do happen to meet the age and illness criteria.

It is unclear exactly when vaccine doses will be made available to students. When questioned, Strecker said, “When the state has approved student vaccinations, there will be an announcement via email.”

As a state-appointed entity, the Tulane vaccination program has no choice but to continue following the guidelines set by the Louisiana Department of Health. Until prioritized groups are vaccinated, Strecker said, it is business as usual, even for recipients of the vaccine.

“Everyone — including those who have been vaccinated — must continue to strictly follow public health requirements, including social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands and complying with campus testing frequency and crowd limits both on and off-campus.”