UF President Kent Fuchs received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning.
The injection came during the first week of a university initiative to vaccinate faculty above the age of 65, UF Health spokesperson Ken Garcia wrote in an email. The initiative starts as the university braces for a semester with more in-person classes and about 40% of its undergraduates coming back to campus.
On Monday, 2,302 individuals on campus tested negative for COVID-19 and 39 tested positive. In November, UF had the second highest number of positive cases of the country’s universities at 5,185 cases since March 18. Fuchs said he was publicly vaccinated to promote confidence in the university’s effort and encourage other faculty to sign up.
“There are still people, even members of the University of Florida community, that are afraid of the vaccine itself,” Fuchs said. “And we know scientifically that it is a safe vaccine.”
Current vaccine eligibility at UF aligns with state and federal guidelines to prioritize senior citizens. Individuals aged 65 and older made up about 81% of the 250,208 recorded COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., according to CDC surveillance public use data of cases.
More than 1,100 UF employees are in that age range and eligible to be vaccinated, but the vaccine is not yet available to faculty outside that age range or to UF students. It is still too early to tell when vaccines will become available to other groups present on campus, Garcia wrote.
The vaccination will not be mandatory for students, but Fuchs said they should get vaccinated.
“They're going to be more than encouraged,” Fuchs said. “I'm going to urge every student, every employee to please be vaccinated.”
Other faculty have already scheduled their vaccinations, and about 600 people have received their first dose, Garcia wrote. Those who are eligible received emails to schedule an appointment through MyUFHealth.
The first 4,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines went out Dec. 16 to UF Health in Gainesville and the Moderna version arrived Dec. 22.
UF professor Mike Foley and UF Health chief epidemiologist Nicole Iovine were among those vaccinated at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital Tuesday morning. They said the vaccine was painless, and waited nearby for 15 minutes after in accordance with CDC guidelines, which require a post-injection observation period.
Foley, a UF alumnus and master lecturer in journalism for more than 15 years, said he thinks he will never enter a Zoom meeting again after the pandemic. Teaching from a screen has been hard, he said, and he’s eager to get back in the classroom.
Next week, Foley will begin teaching in-person and the university will offer more than 8,000 in-person classes. Taking the vaccine will make entering the classroom again feel safer, he said.
“The hands-on, personal, in-the-office experience with students is what I live for,” Foley said. “I think this will make me much more confident about doing it.”
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