More than 1,000 health professional students from colleges and universities across West Virginia on track to help with vaccine rollout

Photo 1 link: Mary Jane Braham and Kara Howard, West Virginia University pharmacy students; Photo 2 link: Claire Miller, Marshall University nursing student

CHARLESTON, WV – To assist West Virginia’s full-court-press COVID-19 vaccine rollout, more than 1,000 health professional students from colleges and universities across the state have volunteered to administer vaccines in coordination with local health departments and community health partners. This is thanks to a new initiative – the West Virginia Vaccine Administration, Collaboration, and Support (WV VACS) Team – resulting from a partnership among the National Guard, Department of Health and Human Resources, and Higher Education Policy Commission.

“We are thrilled to provide this opportunity to students pursuing careers in healthcare,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor for Higher Education. “This unique experience is allowing them to play a critical role in West Virginia’s already-remarkable vaccination campaign. We are proud that so many students have already volunteered. It’s a testament to their commitment to their chosen professions, and to serving the health needs of West Virginians.”

Currently, just over 1,000 students from 32 health sciences programs across West Virginia have opted in to help with vaccination clinics throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Since March 17, the VACS Team has already deployed 112 students to assist with clinics. The remaining students are in the training process and will be deployed to communities throughout the state in the coming weeks.

Mary Jane Braham, pharmacy student at West Virginia University who has completed the curriculum and worked at a clinic in Monongalia County clinic, said of her early experience, “Being a part of the WV VACS Team has provided the opportunity for me to work directly with my student colleagues from other disciplines while giving back to our communities during a time of need. COVID-19 has changed everyone’s life in one way or another, but together we will continue to make a positive impact to better the health of our community.”

“Participating in the vaccine distribution has allowed us more vaccine training during a time when some of our regular clinical rotations weren’t available because of COVID,” added Claire Miller, Marshall University nursing student. “This has been good for me professionally and provided me the opportunity to help my community at the same time.”

Prior to working in communities, students complete an online curriculum that is designed to enhance their knowledge about COVID-19 vaccines and their administration. Once fully trained, groups of students work under supervision with local health providers to give vaccines and support data entry. Higher education institutions determine whether students participate in this voluntary program for either course credit or community service.

“It has been a wonderful experience to help coordinate these health professional students to assist with the vaccination efforts across West Virginia,” said Skylar Upton, recent WVU exercise physiology graduate and WV VACS Team project coordinator. “I am proud to be part of the WV VACS Team and the work it is doing.”