Luna students key in vaccine effort
State credits students’ role in raising awareness, giving shots
Students and employees at Luna Community College and other colleges and universities across the state have played a major role in administering the COVID-19 vaccine and raising awareness about the importance of getting fully vaccinated for personal, campus and community health.
“As we look forward to the approaching summer and fall semesters, it is critical that all eligible students, staff and faculty get fully vaccinated in order to ensure the successful return to in-person learning and campus activities,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, New Mexico Secretary of Higher Education. “The state has met its 60 percent goal, and higher education was part of that equation.”
While all New Mexicans age 12 and older are now able to receive the vaccine, only 43 percent of those age 18-24 have received their first dose, and 36 percent have completed their vaccination series.
Last month, the White House and U.S. Department of Education began inviting colleges and universities to join the national COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge, asking them to engage all students, faculty and staff; expand vaccine access; and organize their campus communities to champion access. New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, UNM-Taos, Navajo Technical University, Eastern New Mexico University and New Mexico Tech have signed on.
“My friends and I got vaccinated so we can feel comfortable to travel and to be safe going to work and class,” UNM student Chris Naranjo said.
“A lot of young people are essential workers like myself,” UNM senior Grace Conlin said. “I also had not seen my elders since the pandemic started, so that was my reason for getting the vaccine.”
Naranjo and Conlin work as part of UNM’s Student Health and Counseling Center, which has been working to educate students about the COVID-19 vaccine and debunk myths surrounding it. They observed that reasons for college students not getting the vaccine include not feeling susceptible to the virus, not knowing that the vaccine is free, and not having ready access to vaccines on campus or at times that work for them.
Student leaders at UNM, Northern New Mexico College, Western New Mexico and CNM also shared videos on social media encouraging fellow students and community members to get vaccinated.
Several colleges and universities like Luna have partnered with the Department of Health and local providers to host vaccine clinics, many of which are also open to the community at large. At schools with nursing programs, the clinics have also presented an opportunity for students to gain clinical experience and learn about public health in a real-world setting.
“Our students were excited to see the look on people’s faces when they got the shot,” said Maxine Hughes, director of the Luna nursing program. “There was a limited number of public health nurses, so having the students helped us to be able to get more people through and provided relief to the other nurses.”
Clinics hosted in Las Vegas enlisted 41 student nurses to administer vaccines to the community and senior citizens under the supervision of nursing faculty. The clinic served around 300 patients per day.
Northern New Mexico College, Santa Fe Community College, New Mexico Tech, Mesalands Community College, and ENMU-Roswell have also hosted or plan to host vaccine events this month. NMSU is also offering mobile vaccine clinics statewide via its Cooperative Extension Service.
Incentives including drawings, grab bags and gift cards to campus bookstores have also been offered on some campuses in an effort to increase vaccination rates. Faculty and staff have been offered paid leave to attend vaccine appointments. Students over the age of 18 are also eligible to participate in New Mexico’s $5 million vaccine sweepstakes at vax2themaxnm.org.
College students and all New Mexicans are encouraged to sign up for their free and convenient appointment at vaccinenm.org. A listing of local vaccine clinics and events can be accessed via the COVID-19 public calendar.
Efforts at Luna have included a “Rough Up The Virus” initiative and participation in statewide public information campaigns.
— New Mexico Department of Higher Education and
Luna Light staff reports