Virginia Tech pushes for vaccinated campus with new vaccine dashboard
In-person classes. Crowds at Lane Stadium. Campus events. These activities can happen only if the majority of Virginia Tech students and employees are vaccinated for COVID-19.
As the fall semester inches closer, the university is making progress. But it isn’t there yet.
According to a newly launched dashboard on the Virginia Tech website, 25.2 percent of students and 27.9 percent of employees have uploaded their vaccine cards as proof that they are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, as of June 28. The dashboard will be updated twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays, through the fall semester.
Virginia Tech created the dashboard to inform the campus and the larger community of the university’s vaccination status. It represents the Hokie Nation’s path to a new academic year, and one that it hopes will resemble a pre-pandemic environment.
“The dashboard tracks our progress,” said Mike Mulhare, assistant vice president for emergency management at Virginia Tech. “It informs us on where we are and where we need to be. To operate in a near normal environment, our employee and student vaccination percentages need to significantly improve."
The vaccination percentages, displayed on the dashboard in two pie charts, count employees and students at all of Virginia Tech’s campuses. Students who are taking courses fully online and have requested a waiver are not counted in the percentages.
Vaccination numbers are tallied only when an individual registers their vaccine status here. Schiffert Health Center receives student vaccine information, while Human Resources receives employee information. All vaccination data is confidential.
Virginia Tech students are required to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 6, and there are dates by which they need to receive certain vaccines to meet the deadline.
Employees are strongly encouraged to receive a vaccine. With the Delta variant emerging, having vaccinated employees is even more important. "We know that vaccination is the most effective tool to protect our workforce and our community," Mulhare said.
Those employees who are not vaccinated will be required to participate in the university’s surveillance COVID-19 testing program during the semester. More details on fall testing will be shared in the coming weeks.
If there is not continued progress in the vaccination rate of the Virginia Tech community, the university will require additional mitigation strategies and operations likely will be impacted, Mulhare said.
Each pie chart moves from gray to maroon as vaccine numbers increase for employees and students. The goal is to turn most of each chart maroon, Mulhare said.
The push for vaccinations, particularly within universities, is an important step toward the community resuming a healthy, pre-pandemic life, said Noelle Bissell, health director of the New River Health District, during a meeting with the news media earlier this week.
“Our institutes of higher education, they want to get back to a normal learning experience this fall, and they are a congregate setting, and we know that COVID spreads quickly in congregate settings,” she said. “Last fall, that’s where we found a lot of our cases, where people gathered socially, and that’s where the infection spreads. So, it’s really important that we have high numbers of people who are vaccinated in those situations and that way, we’re going to decrease the spread.”
She explained that vaccinations not only protect the people who are vaccinated, but they also protect others who may not be able to receive a vaccine for a certain reason or who may have a suboptimal response to a vaccine.
— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone