Student workers prepare to get COVID-19 vaccine as university faces a limited supply of doses

Experts encouraged student workers to seize the opportunity to get a dose when and where they can.

As USC works to return to campus, student workers are among those now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But, due to limited resources, many may have to wait or get vaccinated elsewhere.

According to Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman, there are 6000 to 7000 vaccine-eligible essential workers, but there are only 2000 vaccines currently available through USC Student Health, placing student workers further down on the list

Enrolled students who are employed and paid by USC are part of stage 1B of USC’s vaccine rollout plan. This includes student workers who have worked remotely throughout the pandemic. However, the plan states, “USC is prioritizing faculty and staff currently required to work on-site frequently and facing occupational risk.”

“We’re continuing to work through the priority list,” Van Orman told Annenberg Media in a press briefing. “But we may not be able to provide it to [everyone].” She encouraged eligible people to take advantage of other opportunities to get vaccinated, as it is unclear when everyone on the list will be able to get a shot.

Sage Moore, a senior who does administrative work for the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, is eligible for the vaccine. But Moore said she will not be getting her shot from USC. She has an appointment scheduled at CVS and said it’s “a bit frustrating” that USC cannot provide it for her.

Moore said she is trying not to dwell too much on USC’s limited resources. “I think I’m just excited to be eligible,” she said.

Some student workers who are working remotely think it’s more important for more vulnerable members of the community to get vaccinated first. Maria Labourt, a teaching assistant and doctoral student said she would rather wait for other essential workers at higher risk get vaccinated before remote student workers. She also believes it is not essential for students to go back to campus immediately.

“My quality of life as a student has gotten so much better,” she said of her time learning and working remotely, although she said that may be an “unpopular” opinion among many who continue to work from home.

Labourt said she has enjoyed spending time in her favorite neighborhoods of L.A. and going on walks when she would otherwise have been commuting to campus. She said this made her feel less rushed to be vaccinated when she feels others are more at risk.

However, experts encourage people to be vaccinated as soon as they are able.

“If you are eligible, we want you to get the vaccine,” said Keck Medicine’s Dr. Gregory L. Taylor II during a Facebook Live event on March 4.

“I understand how you can feel fearful,” Taylor said of vaccine skeptics. He stressed the importance of the vaccine, not only for oneself, but for the community at large. “We would rather you bet on the science and reduce your risk for severe COVID.”

Moore said she is aware that there are others who might have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than her, but that will not stop her from getting vaccinated.

“I just figure if I’m eligible, I’m not breaking any rules. So I feel like everyone should get vaccinated if they have the ability to,” she said. “I recognize that there are many, many individuals who need it and deserve to get it and are having trouble getting it.”

According to Van Orman, USC Student Health has made efforts to vaccinate vulnerable community members. Last week, USC held a community clinic that was open to members of the community near campus.

“We worked with various churches and civic organizations,” Van Orman said. “It was a great effort. Our team really thought it was important to vaccinate some of the older individuals in our community.”

Though student workers are less likely to receive vaccines directly from USC Student Health, the university has made efforts to support student workers in getting vaccinated in Los Angeles County and beyond.

Annenberg Media obtained a March 4 email distributed by the Dornsife Business Center offering the school’s student workers documentation to prove their employment and vaccination eligibility.

Van Orman said that any students who might already have appointments to get the vaccine through Keck should keep those appointments and get vaccinated as soon as possible. Taylor urged people to visit the Los Angeles County public health site to determine eligibility, make appointments and answer vaccine-related questions.