Last week, some Hopkins undergraduates began volunteering at M&T Bank Stadium, one of three mass vaccination sites in Baltimore, to offer non-clinical support services through the Vaccine Volunteer Project.
The COVID-19 working group of the office of University President Ronald J. Daniels partnered with the Center for Social Concern (CSC) and the state of Maryland to launch the project.
According to CSC Executive Director Misti McKeehen, this partnership was conceived in order to extend the University’s COVID-19 response beyond the immediate community of Hopkins and into Baltimore and Maryland.
“As we identified the mass vaccination sites with the state of Maryland, Vice Provost [Alanna] Shanahan was asked to dedicate Student Affairs support,” she said. “That’s where I had the pleasure of coming in to assist with the planning and implementation of the large, long-term volunteer effort that will take quite a bit of coordination in the coming months.”
Shifts are currently available in the morning and afternoon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Students can register through Hopkins Engage.
So far, over 200 undergraduates have expressed interest in the program, though spots per shift are currently limited to groups of six students.
Sophomore Sadie Abboud highlighted that she wanted to sign up as a way to make a difference for those affected by the pandemic.
“It’s been hard to watch the people I love have to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, and there’s not much I can do about it. So when I did see this opportunity, I jumped right on it,” she said.
Freshman Eyad Ali emphasized that he sees volunteering with this project as a way to increase equitable health-care and vaccine access.
“I feel very strongly about an equitable distribution of the vaccine. I’m originally from Sudan, a country where the vaccine is not even available yet, so I consider it a privilege to be able to help people to get the vaccine,” he said.
According to student volunteers, the atmosphere at M&T Stadium is exciting, despite long lines and wait times. Students volunteering with the project do not administer the vaccine but help ensure efficiency and mobility at the vaccine site.
Freshman Tanvi Kosuri, who is a shift leader at the site, explained that she was looking for more opportunities to interact with patients since access to clinical volunteer experience and shadowing have become unavailable during the pandemic.
“It is not a requirement for students to be pre-health, but I have noticed that signing up has been more prevalent in pre-med students, mainly freshmen, because they haven’t had that shadowing experience due to COVID,” she said. “This position allows students to have a taste of volunteering in the clinical setting interacting with patients.”
Kosuri volunteered as an observer, monitoring patients for 15 minutes after they received their shot to ensure that there are no adverse reactions, which is a common procedure at vaccination sites.
All volunteers are required to wear masks at all times, follow social distancing requirements and alert staff or shift leaders if any health or safety concerns arise. Surgical masks are also provided by the site. Volunteers must have received a negative COVID-19 test result 24 to 48 hours before their shift, which is monitored through the Prodensity app.
According to McKeehen, one group of volunteers was even offered vaccines, which would have otherwise gone to waste, after working at the site until closing time. She noted, however, that student volunteers are not guaranteed nor expected to receive the shot for their services.
Right now, the program is at its “soft launch” stage. Given its success and mutual benefits for both undergraduates and the state’s vaccine rollout, Mckeehen stated that this program is likely to continue in the weeks to come.
“[The COVID-19 working group] asked how we could support Baltimore in a larger sense and leverage the talent and excitement of our students to be able to be part of our response,” she said.
According to McKeehen, shifts are still limited, but her team is working on expanding the project and securing more volunteer opportunities.
“Students should complete the registration form and review the training, and we will be notifying people in an ongoing manner when new shift opportunities become available. Soon, we will open the April shifts to volunteers,” she said.
Those interested in volunteering with the Vaccine Volunteer Project can find more information here.