Long Island universities prep to track vaccine distribution

By Matthew Hughs

With Covid-19 vaccine distribution ramping up, and colleges across the nation preparing to return to in-person classes in the fall, Long Island university officials are developing plans to track faculty and staff members who have received their doses.

Vaccine distribution — and the ability to reach herd immunity, defined as at least 60 percent of the population with immunity to the coronavirus — will be key to reopening society safely, including the Island’s universities.

Officials at Adelphi, Hofstra and Stony Brook universities recently described their plans for The Long Island Advocate.

Hofstra University

With a student body of roughly 11,000, the Nassau County university, in Hempstead, has kept its community up to date during the pandemic through the Hofstra Safe Start website, which provides information on the number of student and employee Covid-19 cases and number of Covid-19 tests administered, but does not yet have information about vaccine distribution.

When vaccine information does become available, though, it would likely be published on the Safe Start site.

Tracking of Covid-19 distribution has been discussed at Hofstra faculty meetings since the second week of February, according to university faculty members. Officials from the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Information Technology Services Department are working to develop a system to collect Covid-19 vaccine information from faculty, staff and students.

“We are still in discussions about a systematic way to track vaccinations,” said Kathleen Gallo, founding dean of the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant studies. “But, as a point of interest, [Human Resources] will be tracking employees and staff, and Student Health will track students.”

Steve Fabiani, Hofstra’s vice president for digital innovation and technology, said vaccination records entered through the MyHofstra portal would be kept confidential, using “the same technologies we use to protect the confidentiality of our most sensitive data.”

“Individuals who choose to provide the information would be able to enter some basic details, such as the date they received their complete vaccination, along with any documentation they want to submit,” he said. “The use of this sort of information is very, very narrow.” He noted that federal, state and local laws dictate how such information can be used.

Hofstra’s tracking system is not yet fully designed, and would need about two weeks of testing before it could be used to collect distribution information.

Adelphi University

Adelphi, in Garden City, has a population of about 8,000 students. Working closely with its graduate nursing program, Adelphi updates its website daily with Covid-19 test results and guidelines for coming to campus.

There is not yet information about vaccine distribution on its website, but the university sends the “campus community regular updates on those currently eligible for vaccines in New York State and how to get on lists for appointments.”

“We will be sending out a campus-wide communication at some point soon, asking that those who have received the Covid vaccine share a copy of their vaccine card so we can begin to track statistical information for planning purposes,” said an Adelphi University spokesperson on Feb 24. “Our Health Services staff is currently tracking College of Nursing and Public Health students’ vaccine status, as many of those students have elevated risk due to their interaction with patients at various healthcare facilities.”

Stony Brook University

With a student body of around 26,000, Stony Brook University and its affiliated Renaissance School of Medicine at SBU are working with New York State to distribute vaccines to Long Islanders through vaccination sites around Suffolk County. Fulfilling the responsibilities of a vaccination distributor is the primary focus for SBU medical staff, so there is not yet a system to track vaccination rates on campus, but Covid-19 test results are posted daily.

Although there is no plan in place to date, Lynn Johnson, Stony Brook’s vice president of human resource services, said, “Stony Brook University staffs and runs an on-campus [Research and Development] Park point-of-distribution site in partnership with the state. . . Stony Brook University Hospital also gets vaccine allocations that are distributed on campus or in one of our outpatient locations. . . New Yorkers can follow the progress of New York’s vaccination efforts through the state’s vaccine tracker.”

At press time, New York State had an overall vaccination rate of nearly 29 percent. Nassau County’s was 34.5 percent, and Suffolk’s was 27 percent.

Once Stony Brook’s medical school receives doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, it notifies staff about appointment availability.

Dr. Margaret McGovern, vice president for health system clinical programs and strategy at Stony Brook’s medical school, said, “Stony Brook University Hospital has administered 100 percent of its Covid-19 vaccine allocations and is among the highest-performing vaccine distribution sites in New York State.

“Having successfully offered Covid-19 vaccinations to all eligible Phase 1a patient-facing healthcare professionals as of about mid-February,” McGovern said, “we began offering opportunities for other eligible individuals to be vaccinated at our various points of distribution, in accordance with the New York State Department of Health directives about who we are permitted to vaccinate with hospital allocations.”

She added, “While we have the operational capacity to vaccinate more individuals, the vaccine supply is extremely limited and determined by the state. Stony Brook University would welcome the opportunity to vaccinate more staff once the supply permits it, and the [State Health Department] has expanded the eligibility categories to cover staff who do not currently qualify.”

The federal and state governments decide on Covid-19 vaccination distribution rules, so Long Island universities have no power to speed up vaccination of faculty and staff.

Most faculty within each of the school’s medical programs have received both doses of the vaccine, but only because they are front-line medical workers. The faculty, staff and students in the larger campus communities do not hold this status, so they must wait until they become eligible, according to state guidelines. Professors are currently eligible to be vaccinated, but only if they teach in person.

New York State does not yet require colleges to supply vaccine distribution information.

The Covid-19 vaccine in New York State

All the latest information on Covid-19 vaccine eligibility, appointments, and tracking can be found here. To learn more, visit your county government’s website.

New York State has broken down the process of being vaccinated into four steps:

  1. Check eligibility and schedule an appointment at a vaccination site near you. Appointment availability is different from site to site.
  2. Fill out a vaccine eligibility form. This will provide you with an ID that you must have when you arrive to your site for an appointment.
  3. Bring proof of eligibility to your appointment. Depending on your eligibility category, proof can include an employee ID card, a letter from an employer or affiliated organization, a pay stub, a driver’s license, passport, or any legal proof of your date of birth and residency.
  4. After receiving the first dose of the vaccine, a second appointment will automatically be scheduled for you. Attend your second appointment to become fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

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