Close to 300 University of Arkansas – Fort Smith employees received their first COVID-19 vaccination today, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, thanks to a partnership clinic between the university and Mercy Fort Smith.
Spirits were high throughout the morning at the Ben Geren Park tornado shelter as colleagues shared distanced congratulations and sighs of relief, knowing they were one step closer to beating the virus and doing their part to protect their Lion pride.
“I want to help our campus and River Valley community, and I want to get back to safe face-to-face teaching,” shared Dr. Laura Witherington, associate professor of English. “And after reading ‘Station Eleven’ for our NEA Big Read Event, I want to end this virus and avoid the apocalypse!” she added with a laugh. Emily Saint John Mandel, acclaimed author of “Station Eleven” visited UAFS in 2019, sharing conversations across campus about her best-selling novel which is set 20 years after a flu pandemic destroys most of civilization.
Tommye Robinson, assistant athletic director for compliance and senior woman administrator, also received her vaccination at the clinic. “Our staff has done an excellent job working to keep our student-athletes safe, and this is another way we can ensure the safety of our students and our colleagues,” she said.
Close to 140 staff and nearly 100 faculty members of the university, along with more than 30 student workers who serve in public-facing roles, received their first dose of the two-part Pfizer vaccination Friday morning as part of the Arkansas Department of Health’s Phase 1B classification.
A drive-through clinic was initially intended to take place on the UAFS campus Monday, Feb. 1, in tandem with the UAFS College of Health Sciences’ second-dose clinic held that afternoon, but due to a state-wide shortage of first vaccine doses, the open employee clinic was postponed.
Students, faculty, and staff of the College of Health Sciences who serve in clinical roles across the River Valley in conjunction with their coursework were eligible for vaccinations under ADH Phase 1A and received their first doses Jan. 11. Almost 100 members of that college were vaccinated on campus in partnership with Coleman Pharmacy.
In addition to the two clinics, UAFS employees have also sought the vaccine at area pharmacies and attended open clinics at Baptist and Mercy hospitals, helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 on an individual basis.
The university intends to continue working to provide additional clinics as often as supply allows until all members of the UAFS community who wish to be vaccinated are able to receive their vaccines.