MSU Nursing Students Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Tristan Arrington, registered nurse with Montana State University’s University Health Partners, administers a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Camille Burroughs, a MSU nursing sophomore, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, on campus in Bozeman, Mont. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

Administration of the COVID-19 vaccine on campus continues this week as MSU finishes vaccinating the last of their frontline healthcare workers. MSU received authorization from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services to vaccinate students enrolled in clinical programs late last year, and distribution of the vaccine on campus began Friday, Jan. 8.

Students currently eligible for the vaccine include those enrolled in the College of Nursing, the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) Regional Medical Education Program and the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education. Also included are those enrolled in Gallatin College’s phlebotomy program as well as surgical and medical assistants. This amounts to 215 students who will be the second group to receive vaccines from the university, following MSU healthcare workers. According to the director of MSU News Service, Michael Becker, “Turnout has been exceptional, with nearly 180 [students] getting vaccinated.”

Sophia Thompson, a student in her second semester of the nursing program, said, “My experience [getting the vaccine] was totally great and normal. My first vaccine shot I did great, just a super sore arm. My second vaccine I got a mild fever and chills but any symptoms only lasted around 18 hours.” 

“We saw a great response from the health professions students who have received vaccinations,” Becker said “They were eager to get vaccinated so that they can continue their clinical work with patients and clients.” 

The first wave of vaccinations was administered in the last week of December to professionals associated with University Health Partners, MSU’s student health clinic. According to Jim Mitchell, the Associate Vice President for Student Wellness, the 44 doses initially provided to the university by Pfizer were enough to vaccinate most of MSU’s clinical workers. 

Becker expressed satisfaction with the campus’ vaccination rollout. “We’re very pleased with how it’s gone so far. MSU, especially the staff at University Health Partners, is working very hard to put the university’s vaccine program into place,” he said.

MSU received approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be a COVID-19 vaccine provider in December 2020. To receive approval, the university had to prepare freezers that could maintain a temperature of at least -80ºF for the Pfizer vaccine, as well as prepare freezers that could store the Moderna vaccine at temperatures between -13ºF and 5ºF. University Health Partners already had several suitable freezers in place, and another ultra-cold freezer is expected to be installed this month. 

Plans for wider vaccine distribution amongst the student body have not yet been made. Timelines for distribution are still being adjusted at the state and federal levels.