A student guide to getting vaccinated through Boynton

With recently expanded eligibility, students may receive an invitation to get a vaccine through Boynton Health.

Nathanael Ashton-Piper

With the recent expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include Minnesotans aged 16 and older, Boynton Health broadened its eligibility on April 1 to include many students and faculty working in on-campus environments that require more face-to-face contact.

Boynton has been receiving COVID-19 vaccines from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) since January 7 and has administered 6,600 first doses as of April 8.

Can I schedule a vaccine appointment with Boynton?

Boynton’s vaccine clinic currently operates on an invite-only basis. Students and faculty who fall into certain categories may receive an invite via email to sign up for a vaccine appointment with Boynton. In addition to previously eligible groups like healthcare workers and people aged 65 and older, the newly added groups include those working in face-to-face environments on campus, including transit workers and those working in grocery, housing and dining.

Student workers, faculty teaching in-person classes and other employees working on campus in frontline public-facing roles are also included.

“Most people will get vaccinated at their primary health care provider. For most of our students and many of our employees, that primary health care provider is Boynton,” said Jill DeBoer, the director of the University’s Health Emergency Response Office.

How does Boynton determine who to vaccinate?

The vaccine clinic runs in coordination with state guidelines that Boynton has agreed to, DeBoer said.

This means that Boynton has to follow the state’s definition of an “essential worker,” which originally did not include University employees like front desk workers or community advisers (CAs) in campus residence halls.

However as a result of the recent expansion in the state’s guidelines, these groups became eligible to receive the vaccine.

“CAs and other housing employees have really worked so hard this entire pandemic to help us support our students and maintain their safety,” DeBoer said. “So I was really happy when they opened that up, and the same goes for students in the RecWell, front desk workers, janitors and other employees working face-to-face who now have access to vaccination.”

Boynton uses a risk and equity approach to vaccinate groups at the highest risk from COVID-19 and groups that may have restricted access to the vaccine, DeBoer said.

Transportation to an off-campus vaccination site may not be readily available to many students living on or near campus, which may make access to the vaccine more difficult.

“We also have a number of employees who do not use computers in their work or at home,” DeBoer said. “That makes getting access to these vaccine systems — most of which are online — a barrier and thus an equity problem. So our site is open based on those most at risk and then to those who do not have great access to external sources based on any number of reasons.”

Other state guidelines direct providers to administer 90% of the allocated vaccines within three days. Dave Golden, the director of public health and communications at Boynton, said that the clinic always exceeds that number.

“We wait for the vaccine registration to fill with the designated priority groups, and then what we do is continue inviting new or additional groups until we completely fill the clinic,” Golden said.

Which vaccine will I receive?

Every Wednesday, Boynton hears from the state on the quantity and brand of vaccines that it will receive for the following week. The clinic currently has the capacity to administer 3,000 doses per week, Golden said.

DeBoer said that Boynton is currently receiving the Moderna vaccine but that it has the capacity to store any one of the three vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use.

This includes the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires storage in a below-freezing environment unless all the vaccines in a shipment are used within five days.

The vaccine most recently approved for emergency use is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. This vaccine can be stored in above-freezing temperatures and only requires one shot.

On Tuesday, however, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for states to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, citing incidents of blood clotting in six women who received the vaccine. Nearly seven million people in the United States have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of April 13.

The single-shot nature can be an enticing option for the University as the academic year comes to a close, DeBoer said.

She added that the University will continue to follow state and federal health guidelines regarding vaccine distribution and that this situation proves that safety protocols are working.

“Right now, we are looking at second doses [of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine] during finals week, and that dose can make some people feel a little ill. We certainly want to be conscious of the fact that it may not be best for students to be getting their second vaccine dose during finals week,” DeBoer said.

Because Boynton has not yet received any Johnson & Johnson vaccines, however, the clinic will be unaffected by the pause.

With many students leaving campus in early May, it may be more difficult to return to the University for the second shot with school not in session.

However, Golden said a recently updated state guideline may ease that difficulty.

“The odds for people getting a second dose at a different location than their first has greatly increased, which may be great for our students especially as the year comes to a close,” Golden said. “MDH has just allowed us to give second doses to people whether or not they got the first one from us.”

How does the vaccine clinic work?

Boynton’s vaccine clinic is held on the upper level of TCF Bank Stadium. One of the stadium’s club rooms provides Boynton workers the capacity to vaccinate around 40 people at one time, Golden said.

Students who have been to Boynton’s annual flu clinics will find the setup familiar.

A nurse will assist in filling out an information and consent form before administering the vaccine shot. Patients will also get an information packet that includes some possible side effects that may occur while the immune system develops a response to the vaccine.

It is important to note that everyone’s body will react differently to the shot, DeBoer said. Some may experience symptoms of an immune response in the hours or days after the shot, while some may feel nothing at all.

After receiving the vaccine, patients will be asked to sit in a waiting area for 15 minutes before exiting the clinic.

What should I bring with me?

Those with a vaccine appointment are required to bring a U Card or other photo identification. COVID-19 vaccines are free and health insurance is not required to receive a vaccine, but those with health insurance should bring their insurance card to the appointment.

If students are receiving either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, they will be required to schedule the second dose appointment before leaving the clinic.

Those receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech shot must wait a minimum of 21 days before receiving the second dose. Anyone receiving the Moderna shot must wait a minimum of 28 days before receiving the second dose.

Students should also note that receiving a vaccine is an excusable class absence.

When can students who want a COVID-19 vaccine get one at Boynton?

Boynton will make vaccines more broadly available as soon as possible, but it is important that the campus community look elsewhere for vaccination appointments, DeBoer said.

“The best strategy is for people to look at all of their options,” DeBoer said. “Sign up for the state’s vaccine connector and look online at pharmacy sites. It can take some work and patience, but that is the system we have right now. We do not want people to wait; we want them to get a vaccine wherever they can get it.”

Boynton workers and members of the University’s Medical Reserve Corps are administering the vaccinations in the clinic.

Golden said that University pharmacy and nursing students may soon join them in the fall after receiving more training specific to the COVID-19 vaccine. With the help of both groups, the University’s flu clinics usually administer around 20,000 influenza vaccines per year.

“We have great capacity to do vaccinating. All that is holding us back right now is more access to vaccines,” Golden said.