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College first-year Emmanuel Gebremeskel receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on April 21.

Credit: Chase Sutton

After three days of being eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on campus, Penn students are grateful to have the opportunity to be vaccinated and are impressed by how smooth the vaccination site is operating.

The on-campus vaccine clinic in the Gimbel Gymnasium at the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center opened its doors to faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students on April 14, and students on April 19, when all people over the age of 16 in Philadelphia became eligible.

For many students, including Engineering and Wharton senior Halil Memoglu, who is originally from Turkey, getting vaccinated at Penn was possibly their only chance to receive the vaccine for an extended period of time.

“If I went back [to Turkey] I would probably not be vaccinated for a long time, so I was pretty glad Penn was vaccinating students,” Memoglu said.

Other students — particularly those living in on-campus housing — said they were especially happy that Penn was able to provide the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. Prior to Wednesday, Penn had had administered the Moderna vaccine, which requires four weeks between doses instead of three, and the University will continue to do so on Thursday and Friday. 

Penn community members who were vaccinated on Wednesday will receive their second dose on May 12, a victory for students in on-campus housing as they are required to move out by May 13.

When Wharton and College sophomore Oralia Quinones saw that Penn was administering the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, she immediately switched the date of her appointment so that she could receive the Pfizer vaccine.

“I was originally scheduled for Friday, and if I had gotten it on Friday — which was Moderna — I would have had to wait until May 21 to get my second dose and I already had my flight to go back home before that," Quinones said. "So it was really nice that [Penn] actually offered it to students, and right before move-out day right after finals which was really good timing."

Credit: Chase Sutton

College senior Laura Beck receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Apr. 21.

First-year law student Paige Granie similarly switched her appointment from Tuesday to Wednesday after realizing Penn would administer Pfizer vaccines.

“It was really conveniently timed, so I can be fully vaccinated before I go anywhere for the summer," she said.

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian on April 14 that Penn does not get to choose the type of vaccine it will be administering, as it depends on what the City of Philadelphia is able to provide on a week-to-week basis. Penn will release appointment slots for the upcoming week by Friday afternoon of each week, but Dubé added that the University will continue to update the scheduling platform with new vaccine appointments if the city allots the University more doses, as it did this week.

The University is using the same scheduling platform for COVID-19 vaccinations as COVID-19 testing.

Quinones said the scheduling process was very easy, but it took her a bit to distinguish between scheduling a COVID-19 testing appointment and a vaccine appointment.

Penn community members are instructed to arrive at the back entrance of Pottruck at 3730 Samson Street for their appointment, where they will be asked to check in, show Penn identification, and their green PennOpen Pass. Upon arrival, students said their entire appointment lasted less than approximately 30 minutes, and that there was never any sort of line.

“I was really happy that it was so close and you didn’t have to walk down to the [Pennsylvania] Convention Center, because for a period of time, people were going to the convention center and just waiting for hours trying to get a vaccine,” Quinones said.

Wharton first-year Zachary Miles also appreciated the seamless nature of the vaccine clinic and was grateful to be able to receive the vaccine at Penn, adding that it felt like a momentous occasion.

“It feels like a bigger deal than I was kind of expecting it to,” Miles said.

Receiving the vaccine — particularly on campus — left many students reflecting on what it means for the future, particularly as Penn plans to hold classes in person in fall 2021.

College senior Kamryn Stecyk said that she hopes that Penn will mandate the vaccine as a part of returning to campus. She said it would be a step towards a return to normalcy and feeling safe on campus in the fall.

“People walking around without it, being able to carry the virus and transmit it, is a little risky if you’re willing to invite everyone back on campus and have things resume as normal. I think it should be right up there with a regular flu shot,” Stecyk said.

College first year Chapin Lenthall-Cleary agreed that the vaccine should be mandated for students who plan to return in the fall, and hope Penn announces such a plan soon.

Penn has yet to announce a mandate, even as other colleges, including Rutgers University, Columbia University, and Yale University have said they will require students to receive the vaccine prior to returning to campus in the fall. 

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said that such a mandate is "absolutely on the table," but that  COVID-19 vaccines are only approved under Emergency Use Authorization and thus, the vaccine cannot be mandated as of yet.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Penn switched from Moderna to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.