U.S. states enlist medical, nursing students to give out COVID-19 vaccine
By Tina Bellon and Melissa Fares
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. states, facing a backlog in coronavirus vaccine delivery, are calling on medical and nursing students and even firefighters to help fight a raging pandemic at overcrowded hospitals.
At least seven state health departments are looking for volunteers for their vaccination centers. Some partner with local universities or nursing schools to offer incentives such as tuition discounts and hands-on training. Others teach first responders to administer shots.
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The national introduction of COVID-19 vaccines is the best hope to end a pandemic that has killed more than 320,000 Americans and crippled the US economy.
This month, U.S. regulators approved the first two COVID-19 vaccines, one from drug makers Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE and another from Moderna Inc.
Nearly 10 million doses had been dispensed nationwide as of Wednesday, but only about 1 million had been given due to the shortage of staff in hospitals and the special requirements for preparing the exposures. The slow pace of the vaccination campaign endangers the federal government's goal of vaccinating almost 20 million people by the end of the year.
While vaccination is currently focused on frontline health workers, the vaccination campaign is expected to expand to tens of millions of key industrial workers by January or February.
From New York to Tennessee, states are hoping medical and nursing students will free up medical staff focused on record numbers of new COVID-19 patients.
"The ability to fill vaccination clinics with volunteers from our reserve means that vaccination site workers can continue to do their normal duties. This is critical as our hospital stay rate has increased," said a spokeswoman for the Indiana School of Medicine University.
"Fight back against COVID"
When the first vaccines arrived, Indiana health officials urged the state university about its far-reaching locations. More than 630 Indiana University medical and nursing students have volunteered and received 90 minutes of online and hands-on training.
Fourth-year medical student Nicholas Clough began giving COVID-19 vaccines to frontline health workers last Wednesday. He lost several family members during the pandemic.
"It finally felt like it was a real, tangible setback to COVID," said 26-year-old Clough.
The University of Wisconsin is offering $ 500 student credit, including vaccine administration, to students with medical qualifications who work in understaffed hospitals during the winter break.
The university is also speaking to government officials to turn universities into vaccine distribution centers, a spokesman said.
In California, fire department paramedics were trained to first give the vaccine to colleagues.
"They have already received online training and will have another hour-long live training," said Peter Sanders, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman who expected the first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.
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