By Kendall McGee | March 25, 2021 at 4:32 PM EDT – Updated March 25 at 6:14 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – UNCW opened the doors to their vaccination clinic Thursday morning for the very first time.
All the students and staff members that were vaccinated on the first day of the clinic got the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine, meaning they won’t have to return to get a second shot.
The clinic is set up at the Burney Center and run by the campus health center. They plan to stay up and running for as long as it takes to serve everyone.
Leaders will send out emails each week with appointment slots to be filed on a first come, first served basis. The first group of 300 appointments went fast, and were gone in just six minutes.
Resident assistant Alfredo Espinal was first in line to get his shot and says he’s excited to be fully protected so he can safely experience campus life again and see his mother, who’s considered high-risk for COVID-19.
“I haven’t been able to just be home. Most the time, it feels like I’m constantly keeping my distance, staying far away, doing as little contact as I can,” said Espinal.
As a sophomore, he’s been at the university for two years now: both of them completely transformed by COVID-19. The virus will forever be a part of his college experience, but he’s optimistic the beginning of vaccinations could make the coming years much easier.
“I think it’s very important, considering college students right now are feeling down because we’re not allowed to go out or have all these activities. For example, our sports events, we’re not allowed to attend, only certain people are allowed to attend. So not being able to do all the small events and traditions that normal schools have, it’s kind of stopped everyone from feeling like a community,” said Espinal.
This week, the state began moving into group 4, high risk individuals, and if things go according to plan, residential students will be eligible to get their shot as early as next week.
“They have given up a lot this year. They’ve been troopers, they’ve done such a great job following the 3W’s and really doing their best to make as much as they can out of the experience as we all have. But this gives us hope that we can begin to really focus on our plans for the fall,” said Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Katrin Wesner Harts.
The vaccine is the latest tool in UNCW’s toolbox bringing everyone back to a state of health.
Moments after getting the Johnson and Johnson shot, Espinal already understands what this opportunity means, not just for campus, but for the community as a whole.
”It just helps everyone to come back to a normal society and get things back to normal, so if you have the opportunity go and get a shot,” said Espinal.
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