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Colleges, universities prepare for COVID-19 vaccination clinics

School officials in West Michigan say so far they are not planning to require the vaccine.

As colleges and universities prepare for the fall semester, many are working to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to students and staff on campus before summer begins. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that it's allocating 16,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine to 26 different college and universities next week.

Kerry Ebersole, director of the Protect Michigan Commission, said the state had hoped to allocate more doses, but the shipment came in lower than expected. 

"And it looks like the Johnson and Johnson allocation is even going to be smaller the following week," Ebersole said Friday.

Supply has been a struggle throughout the vaccine rollout, though it's improved recently. On Monday, vaccines opened up to everyone ages 16 and older in the state. 

"It's just the beginning, but we're happy that we're at a place to increase access to younger folks," Ebersole said.

Grand Valley State is one of the campuses to receive a shipment of doses, something the university's Virus Action Team had been anticipating.

"We had been doing some contingency planning since I want to say before the end of the year last year on preparations for a mass vaccination clinic. Just so we were ready, if we ever had the opportunity," said Greg Sanial, GVSU's chief financial officer and the director of the Virus Action Team. 

GVSU will hold a single-day clinic with its 1,700 doses in partnership with Metro Health at the Fieldhouse on the Allendale Campus on April 16. The university is prioritizing vaccinations, including for on campus workers and in person students. 

Sanial said the vaccine is not a requirement on campus, as of right now, it is just strongly encouraged. He's also hopeful supply will allow for the university to offer clinics regularly and meet demand. 

"We've done surveys of our students and our faculty and staff and they're overwhelmingly supportive and eager to get the vaccine. So, we may not need a mandate," he said. 

Michigan State University will vaccinate a little more than 3,000 students over the week with doses from the state and local health department. A vaccine requirement is being discussed and evaluated, "but no decisions have been made," said a spokesperson for MSU. 

Davenport University is also encouraging students to get the vaccine. 

 "At the present time, our community is so excited to have the vaccine that we're staying in the strongly encourage mode for this," said Kathy Natelborg, executive director of human resources and co-chair of the university's coronavirus task force.

At Davenport, the university is partnering with Rite Aid to offer clinics at each of its campuses that will be open to vendors and family members of students and staff, as well. 

As the university plans for a return in the fall, Natelborg said making vaccines accessible to students and staff was a piece of that. 

"To be able to literally walk across campus and come and get a vaccine at at our main College of Business, you can't beat that for flexibility and accessibility," she said. 

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