COLORADO SPRINGS — As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to rollout across southern Colorado, colleges actively preparing campus communities for this significant step in battling the pandemic.
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs expects to receive vaccines at the end of February or early March. The university has already developed a plan and locations for distribution.
"Depending on how many vaccines we get, that will determine what our pod sizes will look like. So if we were to get 500, we could do 500 vaccinations in a two-hour window in one day. If we were to get thousands, we could probably do it over a week-long period, in small chunks or a couple of long days," said Stephanie Hanenberg, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellness. "We have two gyms here, we have two in the other part of campus recreation and then on our pool deck which is just down the hall from there."
In between each vaccination group, UCCS says they'll be doing complete disinfection of the building.
"So we have some sprayers that have disinfect in it. We will be using them to disinfect all of the gym areas as well as wipes. We will have hand sanitizer stations everywhere and medical providers in each of the different pods to make sure if anyone does have a reaction, we can respond immediately," said Hanenberg.
Right now, the university says they're waiting on the health department to determine what phase they'll be in for the vaccinations.
"As soon as we are approved to be one of the phases from the health department, we will work on whatever population has been prioritized for that set. So if we were lucky to get into Phase 1B and we were allowed to do faculty as part of teachers then we would definitely bring them in with that first wave," said Hanenberg.
If UCCS is approved to be in Phase 1B, teachers working in-person would receive the vaccine first followed by other staff members. Since students are in the last phase of the state's distribution plan, they would receive it afterward. For those 70 and older, the university is encouraging them to get it right away.
"So that way they don't have to worry about not getting the vaccine in case we don't get it in the next wave," said Hanenberg.
Since the vaccine is "Emergency Use Authorization," the university says they can't make it required for staff or students. But they're encouraging them to get it to slow the spread of the virus.
"For faculty, staff, and students it will be free. There will be no cost whatsoever. The vaccine is being provided to us and all we have to do is provide the supplies and staffing to manage it," said Hanenberg.
With the vaccine becoming available on campus, students say it may encourage others to return in-person.
"I'm hoping with vaccines readily available and testing, people will feel more comfortable coming back on campus," said Maddy Saucerman, UCCS student.
The university says if they can get to at least 70 percent herd immunity across the nation by fall, they'll be able to increase in-person capacity in the classrooms.
"Classes for the spring won't change, but if we can get students vaccinated we can look at that for summer and then definitely for the fall because it takes a lot of planning ahead," said Hanenberg.
Anyone with questions or concerns regarding the vaccine is encouraged to visit the CDC's website here.