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Medical Student Vaccine Distribution at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson

Last Updated: February 9, 2021


To fill gaps in vaccine distribution, the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson (UACOM-T) has launched a multi-pronged initiative in conjunction with the Pima County Department of Health and Banner Health to optimize successful vaccine scheduling and delivery to the greater Tucson community. While developing our initiative led by medical students of all years, UACOM-T students have recognized the technological access and literacy gap present within our Tucson older adult population. To ensure ease in scheduling their vaccine as an at-risk group, students reached out to the Banner Division of Geriatric, General Internal, and Palliative Medicine to man phone lines as a part of the Telehealth initiative. After a training session held by the division, students are able to relieve medical assistants and nurses of this screening and scheduling responsibility and provide the older adult population with appointments. Given our largely Latinx population in Tucson, UACOM-T will also provide the option for Spanish-speaking students to bridge the language barrier and schedule older Latinx adults. Moving forward, when a single-dose vaccine not requiring specialized refrigeration is approved, students plan to continue to reach out to underserved communities in Tucson by assisting Banner Health’s and the University of Arizona’s efforts in vaccinating those with their own barriers to care via mobile services (individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals without transportation, etc.) Within the vaccine drives themselves, UACOM-T medical students have provided a pool of clinical trainees who have greatly augmented the local medical systems’ ability to serve the Tucson area. The students bring a broad skill set within volunteer positions due to their knowledge, access to health records, and familiarity with clinical practice. Medical students are assigned to registration and verification, vaccine administration, and observer positions during volunteer shifts. At registration and verification, students disseminate CDC information regarding the vaccine, check in community members within Banner Health’s patient portal, and ask relevant patient history questions. Students interested in administering vaccines are provided with online vaccination training specific for COVID-19 vaccines. After completion of the online training modules, students are trained on-site with the supervision of nurses and medical assistants in the proper administration of vaccinations and assist in appropriate HIPAA-compliant record keeping. Observation entails educating patients about possible side effects and the CDC V-Safe text program while carefully observing for acute reactions to vaccination for the requisite 15 minutes. All positions are options on the weekly sign-up sheet sent out by student coordinators and are for shifts of approximately 4-5 hours per day. Students work side-by-side with hospital staff, including nurses, techs, security, and administration, in order to maintain an orderly and safe experience. 


Meghana Partha, University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson (meghanapartha@email.arizona.edu)