USD, Sanford host Vaccination Drive as students return to campus
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USD, Sanford host Vaccination Drive as students return to campus

During the first week of classes, USD and Sanford Health partnered to host a vaccination drive open to all students, staff and community members in Vermillion.

The vaccination drive was held for a few hours each day in a building on campus, with 100 vaccines being administered.

“(The drive) went reasonably well,” USD Assistant Vice President for Research Compliance and Director of Environmental Health and Safety Kevin O’Kelley said. “We vaccinated about 100 students, and that is a significant percentage of our unvaccinated student population.”

O’Kelley said he anticipated for roughly 100 people to stop by throughout the week. In South Dakota, 36% of the state’s population from ages 18-24 are vaccinated, according to the South Dakota Department of Health. O’Kelley said the university doesn’t know the exact number of vaccinated students on campus, but presumes the percentage is higher than 36%.

“Many of our students are healthcare students and their clinical work often requires them to be vaccinated,” O’Kelley said. “For example, if their clinical work takes them to a nursing home or one of our two major hospitals, all are now requiring vaccinations, which is why we believe that we have a higher than average vaccination rate.”

South Dakota as a whole has 62% of its population with at least one dose of the vaccine. O’Kelley said his hope is that USD can reach a 100% vaccination rate sooner rather than later to try and mitigate the spread of the virus. 

As of Aug. 31, there are 20 self-reported cases of COVID-19 among students and faculty at USD. Last fall, USD peaked at 243 self-reported cases on Sept. 2. O’Kelley said USD is anticipating for roughly half as many cases at the peak this fall despite the removal of the COVID-19 precautions of masks and social distancing on campus. 

“We anticipate that we would have about half the number of cases we had last year,” O’Kelley said. “If you look at the dashboard from last year, you see that we had a quick peak and then a quick decline. We anticipate the same thing this year.”

There are no more vaccination drives planned for this semester, O’Kelley said.

“There are no plans to do so at this time,” O’Kelley said of another drive. “Instead we are focusing on advertising  that vaccines are free and readily available at Student Health, which is off-campus.”

Vaccinations are free to the public, and students are encouraged to schedule a vaccination appointment with student health to receive either their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Students that are unvaccinated are encouraged to call student health to get vaccinated, O’Kelley said. Student Health offers all three vaccines and students who received their first dose at home can still receive their second dose at Student Health.