The state says Troy University – in rural Pike County, Alabama – can expect COVID-19 vaccines in April, despite Alabama’s SEC schools receiving doses the first week in January, with one of those schools confirming it is already vaccinating its own staff and students despite the elderly population across the state unable to receive the potentially lifesaving shots.
Auburn University and the University of Alabama were some of the first colleges in line to receive vaccines from the state. Auburn has received 7,000 doses, according to its website, while Alabama has reportedly received 3,500 doses.
The Tropolitan reached out to the Alabama Department of Public Health and Gov. Kay Ivey multiple times beginning Monday regarding why some universities – such as her Alma Mater, Auburn – are being prioritized above others. We also asked why these universities are being placed ahead of the state’s overall population as many of the state’s senior citizens and other vulnerable people are still clamoring for the protection the vaccine could offer. We didn’t receive an answer from either by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Despite the ADPH limiting vaccinations to “healthcare providers, nursing home residents, law enforcement officers, firefighters” and persons older than 75, the Tropolitan has confirmed Auburn is vaccinating its own students and staff, seemingly contrary to the ADPH’s guidelines.
“Auburn is currently operating under Phase 1C of the university’s internal prioritization plan in the effort to vaccinate its faculty, staff and students,” Auburn University said in a statement on Jan. 27.
Auburn University said it “implemented a phased approach to vaccine distribution” that “heeded state and federal guidelines.”
However, Auburn applied the state guidelines merely to its own employees and students as the university confirmed the vaccine was not for distribution for the city, only the campus, calling their rollout an “initial Auburn-specific strategy that delineated first prioritization by age and medical condition among the university’s community.”
In an update from State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Jan. 22, he said Alabama could not expand the eligibility for who could get vaccinated, including Alabamians age 65-74, because “we don’t have any more vaccine,” according to Al.com. Meanwhile, Auburn said its students and staff are being inoculated.
On Auburn’s “Covid-19 Resource Center” web page on Jan. 27, the university said it is vaccinating those “required to be on campus” unable to social distance while working and students in off-campus “clinical settings, including internships and practicums.” Of the 7,000 doses Auburn received, 4,695 have been administered.
It’s not until Phase 3 of Auburn’s plan that the local community outside of the school’s campus will benefit from Auburn being a vaccine distribution point – the same time that family members and dependents of Auburn employees are eligible for the vaccination.
The University of Alabama’s website reports the school is in Phase 1a and Phase 1b, still – distributing to individuals who are 75 and older and first responders.
According to a Jan. 4 article in The Crimson White, Ricky Friend, Alabama’s Dean of College and Community Health and Sciences, said the next phase will include employees followed by high-risk populations and on-campus students. In the same article, Friend said “residential students and Greek life students” are considered “high-risk by definition.”
“Troy University is scheduled to receive its allotment of COVID vaccine in April,” said Troy’s Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Lance Tatum.
“We are in fairly constant communication with our ADPH contacts,” Tatum said. “We don’t have a lot of interaction with the Governor’s Office or anyone outside of public health.”
Tatum said Troy University is prepared to distribute a vaccine within 24 hours of receiving doses and stressed the university would follow the state’s guidelines.
“Auburn is a separate university from Troy, they can certainly do what they feel is necessary to meet their current needs,” Tatum said. “Troy’s position is working very closely with ADPH to follow what they’ve asked us to follow, in terms when we will get the vaccine, how it will be stored and distributed.”