As COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues to expand in the United States, Binghamton University students will soon get their turn.
On March 29, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to New York residents aged 30 or older by March 30, and residents aged 16 or older will be eligible for the vaccine by April 6 at 8 a.m. According to Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations at BU, the University plans to begin offering the vaccine in the University Union.
“Our interest is in making it as easy as possible for students to get vaccinated while still here in Binghamton,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “The campus anticipates providing vaccinations for students from our University Union testing center beginning the end of [this] week.”
Yarosh said additional information will be provided to students on Monday, including New York state consent forms and instructions for scheduling appointments. The effort is expected to begin with a “modest supply” of vaccinations, with availability increasing “significantly” in the following weeks.
On March 26, Cuomo also announced the launching of the Excelsior Pass, a free and voluntary platform that allows residents to demonstrate proof of vaccination or negative test results through a QR code, aiming to assist the reopening of businesses. According to Yarosh, BU is not currently using the Excelsior Pass, and SUNY guidance on its use will likely be provided.
COVID-19 vaccines are available off campus by appointment at the state-run vaccination site at the 10 Gannett Drive and the Broome County vaccination site at the Broome Community College Ice Center. Transportation from the University to both sites is currently available through Broome County Transit buses, with routes listed here [https://www.binghamton.edu/health/covid-19/vaccinations.html]. Yarosh said BU may be able to offer additional “limited” shuttle transportation to 10 Gannett Drive as well.
According to Mary McFadden, deputy director of the Broome County Health Department, students can bring forms of identification as proof of eligibility following April 6, including student IDs and licenses. McFadden advised students unable to receive appointments to check online regularly.
“I would tell them just to be patient, to continue to look at the Broome County website for the link, [to] continue to look at the New York state … website and to make sure that they are following through to do it,” McFadden said. “What we are getting right now [is the] Pfizer vaccine, which does require two doses so we want to make sure that students do follow through with getting that second dose to be fully vaccinated, that’s the name of the game.”
Simon Quinn, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, expressed support for the impending increase in vaccine distribution.
“I’m really excited to hear the news that [BU] is [anticipating] providing vaccinations at the [University Union] by the end of the week,” Quinn wrote in an email. “This sounds like it will be a very convenient and effective way of providing vaccinations, especially to students, faculty and anyone else that spends a lot of time on campus. I would definitely like to receive the vaccine there before the semester ends if possible.”
Thomas Bravata, an undeclared sophomore, also expressed an interest in receiving the vaccination and raised concern about potential drawbacks of the Excelsior Pass.
“I think it could be helpful and would download it, but it might have a negative impact on those who are less fortunate and can’t afford high-end cell phones,” Bravata wrote in an email. “Would they be denied service at a restaurant or some other establishment if they couldn’t provide proof of a negative test through the app?”
According to a March 29 press release, the Excelsior Pass will also allow users to print out physical proof of eligibility, which may alleviate such an issue.
McFadden stressed the importance of students receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.
“You guys have seen what [COVID-19] can do and how quickly it spread,” McFadden said. “It has no boundaries. Whether it’s a [BU] campus or a worksite, [COVID-19] knows no different. We really want to have everyone who’s eligible to be vaccinated, vaccinated.”