Students, employees and nearby residents lined up at Panzer Athletic Center on April 27 to get their first shots of the Pfizer vaccine on Montclair State University’s campus. Vaccinations took place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside the gymnasium.
Students and campus employees were able to register online to get their first dose, and the clinic later allowed for walk-in appointments.
The vaccine center came to fruition thanks to a partnership between the university and Walmart Pharmacy. Setu Patel, a market director for Walmart, was given a task by the state to give vaccinations to certain closed pod groups across the Garden State.
“We took on the challenge and said that currently with the open eligibility, this group of youth individuals that are going to be attending colleges are currently unvaccinated because their eligibility just opened up,” Patel said, referring to the eligibility for those 16 and older being opened on April 19 in the state.
The past year has been stressful for Blessing Ezebuee, a freshman majoring in psychology. After receiving an email about vaccinations on campus, Ezebuee decided to get the vaccine.
“I [had] to ask [the staff] if he did it because it was so quick and painless,” Ezebuee said. “Like literally, I didn’t feel a thing.”
Wahida Alam, a sophomore majoring in linguistics, had been trying to look for different places to get the vaccine. The campus vaccine clinic made it much easier to get her shot.
“At first I was a bit scared because on the news they say you might get a lot of side effects,” Alam said. “But I don’t feel anything different after getting it.”
The staff at the clinic consisted of people from different Walmarts all across the state, as well as students from Montclair State’s nursing school checking people’s temperatures at the front door as well as working inside.
John Gonsalves, a Walmart health ambassador, shared his thoughts on working at the vaccine center.
“It was very exciting to give back to the community and to be part of what’s now been happening,” Gonsalves said. “Everyone’s positive, everyone’s got a good attitude [and] everyone’s excited. There’s been really no moaning and groaning.”
Greeting the newly vaccinated people at a parking lot near the center were tables of breakfast, giveaways, Rocky the Red Hawk and a live DJ. All of this was provided by the Center for Student Involvement.
Coordinator of Student Activities Casey Coleman explains that campus events can encourage people to get vaccinated.
“To de-stigmatize the experience, we want to let students know that it’s okay,” Coleman said. “We want to get back to normal and we want to see things return to a more fun and lively setting for students.”
An estimated 800 people got their first doses at the clinic that day according to the university. The center will be brought back on May 18 for the second doses. The university is also doing more on-campus vaccinations. Weekly Saturday vaccinations started this weekend at the Center for Clinical Services for the Moderna vaccine.
As the campaign continues, the vaccines are one step toward seeing a lively and healthy campus again, just like in the time before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Nyron Mitchell, an undeclared freshman, received his first dose at the campus vaccine center and is looking forward to his second dose.
“I feel like once I get my second dose, I’ll feel totally healthy and ready for the next year,” Mitchell said. “So we can get back to normal.”