March 24 COVID-19 Community Update: Expanded vaccine eligibility

By Amir St. Clair, associate vice president and executive director of COVID-19 response and recovery | March 24, 2021

View the March 18 COVID-19 town hall, the latest in an ongoing series of virtual Emory community conversations providing updates and information about vaccines.

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With the Biden administration’s commitment to making all Americans eligible for vaccinations by May 1, we are now seeing frequent updates to Georgia’s vaccine-eligible populations. 

This week, Gov. Brian Kemp expanded the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Georgians over the age of 16 beginning Thursday, March 25. 

For faculty and staff who meet current state eligibility guidelines, you may now sign into your Employee Health Portal and complete your COVID-19 vaccination consent. After your vaccination consent is complete, and when appointments are available, you will receive an email from noreplywebchart@med-web.com where a link will be provided to schedule your appointment through Emory Healthcare. Beginning Thursday, March 25ALL faculty and staff can follow the registration process outlined above.

The form for vaccine-eligible students to attest to their eligibility, consent and schedule a vaccination through Emory Healthcare can now be accessed online. Beginning Thursday, March 25ALL students can follow this registration process.

Please remember that scheduling appointments is subject to vaccine availability.

In the Emory community, I am pleased to report that over 8,000 faculty, staff and students have been vaccinated through Emory Healthcare, with many more vaccinated elsewhere. People are doing the right thing by stepping up to receive their vaccines as they become eligible. 

Remember what our medical experts are telling us: for anyone over the age of 18, the right vaccine for you is the one that you can receive the quickest. Expand your search for a vaccine location beyond your health care provider to include pharmacies and county health departments. It is recommended that you receive your first and second vaccine doses at the same location. Demand continues to outstrip supply, but all signs point in a hopeful direction.

Emory Healthcare is providing 2,000+ vaccines per day and later this week will deliver its 100,000th vaccine; we can be grateful for their good work not just on our behalf but for the benefit of so many in the broader community.

The March 18 Vaccine Town Hall followed a format that has been useful lately, which is to answer the thoughtful questions you are posing to us. Below, I highlight some of the questions and responses. The medical questions were fielded by Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean in the School of Medicine and Grady Health System, and Colleen Kelley, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health.

 

Q: Given Emory’s COVID-19 surge in February, why did we change our gathering policy (expanding it to groups of 25) and why are athletes on the Atlanta campus competing again?

A: Like all events during this pandemic, the recent surge provided important lessons learned, including where and when high-risk activities occur as well as how intervention tactics can help manage community transmission. To support our path forward and goal for the fall, we want to continue empowering safe and healthy on campus behavior. Evidence and data from this surge provided further guidance as to how the university can promote safe outlets for our students to gather and interact, as well as where additional infection prevention measures are needed to safely revise restrictions and support enhanced activity, such as intercollegiate athletics.  

As we take these steps, multiple safety and health indicators are being continuously monitored and reviewed to support our current operating condition

 

Q: Do I need to continue getting tested if I’ve been vaccinated?

A: Testing continues to be a critical tool in community prevalence detection, interrupting infection transmission, and providing appropriate levels of care to those who need it. At this time, all students who are required to complete regular screening at Emory — regardless of their vaccination status — will need to continue complying with these testing requirements.  We anticipate further guidance on the relationship between “being vaccinated” and “what it means for testing” will continue to be shared by local, regional and federal public health agencies, and such guidance will be used to help inform our testing policies. 

 

Q: Should pregnant women get the vaccine?

A: Trials were not conducted in pregnant women; however, all the ob/gyn professional societies are recommending the vaccine and there is hope that the vaccine might help babies with immunity as well.

 

Q: If I had the virus, should I get vaccinated?

A: Once you feel better, display no symptoms, and have exited your quarantine, you can get vaccinated. Don’t count on a period of immunity. Especially if you are an older person, that immunity might not be long-lasting. 

Emory will look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Department of Education for guidance as we continue to plan for a return to campus in the fall. In the meantime, get your vaccine as soon as you can and, regardless of your vaccine status, practice safety measures on campus and off. 

Our progress is palpable — the product of effective practices in which we, as a community, are so deeply invested. Stay updated through Emory Forward and be assured that the steps we are taking are moving us closer to the normalcy we all crave.