On Tuesday, an estimated 225 Goshen College employees and students received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, due to a last minute opportunity given by Goshen Community Schools. However, many students registered to receive a dose were turned away later in the day.
The clinic was made possible by a federal vaccination initiative to vaccinate educators, coordinated by Meijer Supermarkets and Goshen Community Schools. According to Kevin Miller, lead campus contact tracer, approximately 1000 educators were vaccinated at Goshen High School.
On Tuesday afternoon, all GC employees, including student workers, received an email informing them that they would be eligible to receive a vaccine the following day. The email said that the spots would be filled on a first-come first-serve basis, with 24 slots available every hour from 8 am to 6 pm. The spots were quickly filled, with a total of 240 people signing up to receive the first dose of the vaccine.
Students who had signed up for the earliest slots in the day were able to receive their vaccine without any problems.
“I was very excited,” said Brandon Jimenez, sophomore, “I was actually scheduled to get the vaccine, next week because I was volunteering at the [on-campus testing] clinic, but then they sent the email out yesterday, and I signed up right away.”
Jimenez was signed up to receive his vaccine at 2 pm, and noted that while he was getting his shot, the staff at the clinic were starting to get frustrated with the GC students getting vaccinated.
“They kept asking us, ‘where are you guys from, are you guys teachers?” Jimenez said.
Later on in the afternoon, students who were signed up to receive the vaccine around 4 pm were turned away and told that the clinic would no longer be vaccinating college students.
Savannah Walter, junior, was very excited by the unexpected opportunity to receive the vaccine. Walter is signed up for an SST alternative trip in Arizona this summer, and was excited by the possibility of traveling with an added sense of security.
“I work at Java Junction, so I am also interacting with people and touching food,” she said.
However, she was turned away by the staff at the clinic who told her “we can’t take Goshen students right now.”
A few hours later, two students were able to get vaccinated because of their role working with preschoolers on campus.
One of these students, Elaina Youngberg, a junior, said that at first she was turned away by the staff.
“The lady saw us from far away and immediately recognized us as young college students,” she said, “and told us that they weren’t taking any more Goshen College students.”
However, they defended their right to get vaccinated, saying that they would have been eligible even if they weren’t college students.
“We came up with our argument: we would say that some of our co-workers just got vaccinated, and that we work in a pre-primary education and are in close contact with children every day.”
Using this argument, along with some support from a fellow student, Youngberg and her roommate were able to get vaccinated.
Youngberg, who hasn’t been vaccinated since she was a baby, was pretty apprehensive about receiving the vaccine. However, after all that she went through in order to get in, she said that she “wasn’t even nervous by the time she sat down.”
It has not been confirmed yet where exactly the communication breakdown took place, but overall, the Pandemic Task Force is pleased with the amount of people who were able to receive the first dose of the vaccine.
“Today was a huge step forward in vaccinations of educators in our community,” said Kevin Miller, lead contact tracer, “and we are grateful that we at GC were invited to participate. Unfortunately some of our students were turned away….. I understand that this was confusing and disappointing, and am sorry for the inconvenience and emotional ups and downs that this created for some.”