Vaccine eligibility for staff remains uncertain while some schedule vaccine appointments

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Following Santa Clara County’s expansion of vaccine eligibility guidelines last Thursday, some University student staff members have scheduled appointments to receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. However, there is still uncertainty around whether certain positions, such as professors and custodial staff, can also schedule appointments.

According to the new guidelines, workers in education, child care, food and agriculture and emergency services are eligible for vaccines. Though these groups are set to begin receiving vaccinations on Feb. 28, some vaccine sites in Santa Clara County are allowing people to schedule appointments in advance, as long as the appointments occur after the 28th. 

Pat Harris, director of communications at the Office of Student Affairs, wrote in an email to The Daily that the University is “actively pursuing options for all the members of our community, including CAs and RAs, to be vaccinated in compliance with county and federal guidelines and depending on dose availability.” The University declined to comment on whether resident assistants (RAs), professors or other faculty have started scheduling vaccine appointments. 

Arushi Gupta ’23, a member of Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR), said that to their knowledge, workers from UG2, a custodial company Stanford contracts with, have not scheduled appointments yet. SWR has previously worked to raise money for subcontracted workers amid concerns about unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. 

“The workers and union contacts we’ve [been] in touch with did not receive any University communication about vaccine eligibility or logistics,” Gupta wrote. “As we understand the logistical challenges of vaccinations, we hope to begin outreach to unions and workers soon.”

Meanwhile, the 5-SURE program under the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE) has been providing vaccine scheduling resources to eligible peer health advocate staff, according to Lea Rysavy ’22 and Liza Hafner ’21, who are co-directors of the 5-SURE on Foot peer health advocate program. 

During the pandemic, peer health advocates have been giving COVID information to students, encouraging them to follow community health guidelines and providing PPE and snacks in front of EVGR. Rysavy and Hafner received confirmation from their boss that their work could make them eligible for vaccines.

“We all qualify under Santa Clara County residents who are at risk of exposure through education and childcare,” Hafner said. “One thing I do want to clarify is that we’re not forcing or even asking anyone to get vaccinated; we’re just making the resources available since people are eligible.”

In addition to being a peer health advocate, Rysavy is also a contact tracer for the Santa Clara County Health Department, helping long-term care facility members and those older than 65 schedule vaccine appointments. 

According to Rysavy, there are two ways to schedule a vaccine appointment. One is through a patient’s own healthcare provider, such as Kaiser, Stanford Health Care or Palo Alto Medical Foundation, to name a few. The second way is through the county’s public health department, which is how Rysavy secured appointments for her contact tracing patients and for herself. 

Rysavy said she was not able to schedule an appointment through Stanford Health Care because they told her they would not start scheduling newly-eligible people until Feb. 28. A Stanford Health Care spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Those securing vaccination spots through their affiliation with Stanford are asked for proof of Stanford employment and a government-issued photo ID at vaccination appointments, according to Rysavy. Expired IDs are also accepted, she said, because the people working at vaccine sites were told to be flexible while trying to vaccinate as many people as possible. 

Gupta said that any Stanford employee residing in Santa Clara County is “eligible to get vaccinated at any site in the County, even if they don’t have a Stanford ID, as long as they have an attestation from Stanford, a union, or other official body stating that they work at Stanford.”

Many uncertainties around University staff vaccinations remain, and it is still unconfirmed whether any staff beyond 5-SURE peer health advocates have started scheduling appointments ahead of the next phase of vaccinations. The Daily has confirmed that some RAs have been able to schedule appointments to receive their first vaccines.

We’re just kind of flying blind, which is how most things [are with] the whole COVID response process,” Hafner said.

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Athena Xue is a beat reporter covering vaccines for the Science & Technology desk in News. She is a freshman from Fremont, CA interested in studying biology and product design, and she enjoys watching cute otter videos. Contact her at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.