A line formed just prior to 10 a.m. outside the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Coliseum. Eager students were awaiting their shot at getting a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
In partnership with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, the university hosted the vaccination clinic on April 20. Appointments could be scheduled, but walk-ins were also welcome.
More than 300 campus volunteers were on hand throughout the day — at the parking garage, the entrance and throughout the Coliseum — to guide the students and others taking advantage of the on-campus clinic, which was running at an efficient hum.
“We’ve had a steady flow. I’m telling all the students ‘congratulations,’ because this is the first step in hopefully returning to normal in the near future,” said Lisa Maupin, events and outreach manager for the Office of Research and Development and clinic volunteer. “To me, this is our ‘Hope Day.’”
For others, there was also relief. Vanessa Larsen, a senior majoring in classics and religious studies, said she’s been worried about contracting COVID-19, especially while working her job in retail.
“I wanted to get vaccinated to be protected,” she said. “I had pneumonia as a child, and I still have scar tissue in my lungs, so I was at risk. I took every precaution and was very careful, but I was nervous. I’m thankful to be getting vaccinated now.”
Zacchary Scott, a graduating senior in electrical engineering and computer engineering, was one of the students with an appointment in the first hours of the clinic. Scott said it’s been a long year under a mask, and he hopes as more people get vaccinated, masks will no longer be needed.
“Not being able to see the entirety of someone’s face — there is something lost there,” Scott said. “And I’m claustrophobic.”
He also felt it important to be vaccinated to protect others, especially his family.
“I’m not overly concerned for myself, but I have been concerned about passing it to others, so I wanted to do my due diligence,” Scott said. “And knowing that they were opening it up to students told me that those who are most at risk probably already got their vaccinations.
“They made it really convenient for us.”
LLCHD officials reported more than 1,100 doses were administered during the clinic. After checking in and being inoculated, clinic patrons were seated in a waiting area for 15 or 30 minutes (depending on medical history), and then were invited to enjoy free Valentino’s pizza or Runzas in a tent outside East Stadium. Students could also pick up Nebraska swag such as T-shirts, buttons and coupons.
Courtney Grate, an intellectual property manager with NUtech Ventures, was volunteering as an usher for the waiting area. She said she volunteered to help make sure campus can get to a new sense of normalcy and safety.
“It’s been exciting to see people excited,” Grate said. “Whatever I can do to help, I’ll do, for the potential of ending this pandemic, for the potential of seeing a volleyball game or show.”
The clinic was open to any higher education student, staff or faculty, and many in the Lincoln area took advantage, including Southeast Community College student Mohmmed Nour.
“I got a campuswide email and decided to come,” Nour said. “This felt more accessible than the larger clinics at Pinnacle Bank Arena. I wanted to protect my family and do my part to hopefully end this pandemic.”
Some students who were previously vaccinated as student workers decided to continue to help end the pandemic by volunteering at the clinic. John Vacek, a sophomore microbiology major at Nebraska, was vaccinated when he worked at the mandatory COVID-19 testing stations. He said he wanted to volunteer to help the campus and also get volunteer hours for his pre-medicine coursework, something that has been difficult to do over the last year with pandemic guidelines and precautions in place.
Aside from gaining volunteer hours and experience, Vacek hoped many students would take advantage of the clinic so that they could collectively have a more normal start to the academic year next fall.
“It’s very weird for me to say it, because looking back to my freshman year of dreading sitting through lectures, I can’t wait to be in a lecture hall again,” Vacek said. “Just to be able to look over and see my friends, and knowing I’m not the only one who might be confused, and to have a face-to-face conversation. I have been able to have great conversations with professors, and I can stay on a little longer after Zoom calls, but it’s just not the same as being in a classroom or a lecture hall.”
Sponsors who supported the event include Runza, Valentino’s, Pepsi, University Bookstore, Dairy Store, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Chick-fil-a, Steak and Shake, Union Bank and Trust, and Starbucks.