Campus News Health & Wellness

With COVID-19 vaccine approved, UGA president and senior health officials continue urging vaccination

The federal Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 years of age and older. With this long-awaited approval in place, senior officials at the University of Georgia renewed their push for students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated.

“The FDA’s approval of the vaccine today marks a crucial step as we seek to protect the entire University, as well as those in our surrounding community, from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I hope this action by the FDA will remove any hesitancy that some might have had before getting vaccinated.”

“The FDA’s formal approval replaces the emergency use authorization status that was granted last December,” explained Dr. Shelley Nuss, campus dean of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership and co-chair of the University’s Medical Oversight Task Force.  “Now the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is on par with other FDA-approved vaccines like the seasonal influenza vaccine.  We should all feel confident that the vaccine is safe and effective—it truly is our best defense against COVID-19.  And although there have been some breakthrough infections, the overwhelming majority of those hospitalized who are suffering severe illness and death are unvaccinated individuals.  This is the case with our area hospitals as well.  Please consider receiving a vaccine now to protect the UGA community.”

The University Health Center offers free vaccines to faculty, staff and students and their dependents over the age of 16. Appointments may be made online, and walk-ups are being offered at special clinics provided in partnership with the local office of the Georgia Department of Public Health at the Tate Student Center. Two sessions have already been held as students return for the fall semester, and more are scheduled from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Aug. 24-26, 30-31, and Sept. 2.

“We are excited to learn about the approval of the Pfizer vaccine today by the Food and Drug Administration,” said Jen Swails, interim executive director of the UHC and co-chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force. “We stand ready to continue our efforts to provide vaccines to members of our community. We hope today’s good news, along with our current incentive program, will help us continue to increase our vaccination numbers across the campus.”

UGA has offered a $20 gift card and specially designed T-shirt to all who get vaccinated by the UHC since mid-July, but on August 10, enhanced incentives to also include the chance for those being vaccinated to win one of 10 $100 gift cards being awarded each Friday. To date, 20 individuals have won.

The UHC has administered 24,942 vaccinations as of Aug. 20. To facilitate increased demand prompted by the incentive program, additional appointments have been added.

Based on guidance from the University System of Georgia, UGA cannot require students, faculty or staff to be vaccinated in order to be on campus, but vaccinations are strongly encouraged, as is the wearing of face coverings in all indoor public spaces on campus.