George Mason University employees whose roles are critical to the university’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic can start to breathe a little easier after completing their second vaccination doses this week.
More than 100 Mason personnel whose work qualifies them for the state’s “1a” designation were the first people in the Mason community to receive vaccinations starting on Jan. 15 under the auspices of Student Health Services. They returned this week for round two.
“The 1a Mason staff are the very same people who have been front and center in Mason’s response to COVID, in the clinic or housing, directly interacting with sick or potentially sick students, or behind the scenes in the lab or emergency planning, and therefore critical to taking care of our community,” said Lisa Park, MD, the executive director of Student Health Services. “That is why it is vital to get these personnel fully vaccinated, so they remain healthy and continue their important work of keeping our Mason community safe.”
Those being vaccinated include frontline Student Health Services health care personnel like nurses and doctors, Counseling and Psychological Services mental health clinicians, Housing and Residence Life staff who interact with students who are isolated and quarantined, and Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Risk Management (SEERM) testing site and College of Science laboratory staff.
In January, they received the first of two Moderna vaccination shots, which are spaced out 28 days apart. Student Health Services administered the initial doses to 1a staff last month while adhering to stringent Virginia Department of Health requirements for vaccine handling, documentation and patient observation.
Student Health Services managed the entire operation from start to finish while working in conjunction with the state and Fairfax County Health Department. Exactly 184 second-round shots had been delivered as of Feb. 17, with plans to administer 20 more by March 1, Park said.
All of the individuals in the 1a classification are frontline workers who are either providing direct patient care for sick individuals or are instrumental to the university’s testing or vaccination efforts, said Julie Zobel, Mason’s associate vice president for Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Risk Management.
Shakiyla Sincere, Mason’s assistant director for housing and diversity education, was among those receiving their second shots this week.
“Being fully inoculated gives me a sense of security I think I’ve been missing since COVID started,” she said. “I know it doesn’t mean I can’t catch the virus, so I’m still going to take the right precautions. But the idea that if I do catch it, it’s less likely to be fatal, is comforting.”
Registered nurse Eileen Neunaber took away the lasting memory of seeing the unbridled joy on the face of a Facilities employee who was found out there was a shot available for him prior to his trip overseas to see his ailing mother.
“Never lose sight of the impact we can have on someone!” Neunaber said.
Tricia Freiberg, the Student Health Services medical assistant who delivered the very first COVID-19 vaccine at Mason, said the experience has been incredibly rewarding for everyone involved.
“It feels great to be involved in such a special moment in people’s lives,” she said, “and they have been very appreciative of what we are doing for them.”