Starting in September, campus officials promoted a weekly on-campus clinic meant to bolster COVID-19 vaccination rates among students. It was called Vax Wednesdays, and was supposed to run weekly from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
But on the first day of the event, Sept. 22, fewer than a dozen were vaccinated, and pharmacists from Ralph’s abandoned the clinic after one hour.
“We only had six appointments, so we only stayed until 10 a.m. to accommodate those specific appointments and potential walk-ins,” said Lord Sarino, manager of administrative services at Ralph’s Pharmacy in Orange.
El Don reporters visiting the clinic observed at least one student who walked in after 10 a.m. and was unable to get vaccinated.
Vax Wednesdays were cancelled and an announcement made a few weeks later on official school social media. SAC Public Information Officer Deliah Davilos blamed low turnout.
“We are no longer working with Ralph’s to vaccinate students because of low turnout, but we are working diligently to find a replacement pharmacy,” Davilos said.
Sarino said Ralph’s Pharmacy needed to reach up to 200 students for the semester to keep the program running — a benchmark set by Ralphs, not SAC, Davalos said.
Officials are looking for another pharmacy to partner with for an on-campus vaccine clinic, which Davalos hopes to secure by Thanksgiving.
Rancho Santiago Community College District hasn’t mandated vaccinations for students, but college officials are encouraging it as part of “Vax for the Win.” The incentive program gives students a $200 Campus Store gift card for submitting proof of vaccination. Funding for the gift cards comes from federal pandemic relief money.
“I am getting vaccinated not only because my family and friends recommended me, but I also want the money from Vax For the Win,” said freshman Branden Carrillo, who was one of the few students to get vaccinated on Vax Wednesday.
As Sarino packed up his station and an ice chest of leftover doses an hour after opening the first and only Vax Wednesday, he said he understood that getting vaccinated is a personal choice. Still, it’s the only way we can try to end the pandemic.
“Even though young people may not be having severe symptoms, they can still pass it onto their family members and their friends that have immune issues or are more susceptible,” Sarino said. “The more people we get vaccinated, the faster we can end the pandemic.”
To find your closest vaccine distributor, visit sac.edu/covid19
2M: Total number of fully-vaccinated people in OC
39: Percentage of people ages 18-34 who are unvaccinated in OC
22K: Number of people under 65 in SAC’s zip code who are vaccinated
Source: CA Immunization Registry