Fighting the Virus through Vaccination Efforts

Nursing student Camila Llosa, center, delivers a vaccine shot at one of many vaccination events hosted by the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden.

Multiple initiatives launched by Rutgers University–Camden have increased COVID-19 vaccination rates among South Jersey residents, as well the rates of students, faculty, and staff on campus.

Off campus, a variety of programs helped city and area residents to get shots. “To get out of this pandemic and return to fully functioning life, we have to think creatively about how to vaccinate our hard-to-reach and vulnerable residents,” said Bob Atkins, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden who directs the New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), a statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

NJHI funded Community Connectors, an innovative awareness campaign led by Rutgers University–Camden and the Center for Family Services in Camden. It leveraged the trust and relationships of a team of Camden residents to recruit local barbers, who in turn used their position as influential community members to amplify the merits and accessibility of getting vaccinated.

Rutgers–Camden psychology researchers Kristin August and Charlotte Markey worked with their students to develop evidence-based messaging and materials for the campaign, which included the slogan “Stay Camden strong. Don’t wait. Vaccinate.” They then helped to translate the information into Spanish and create flyers. “It’s rewarding for us researchers and our students to be a part of a project that is helping people in the community,” said August, an associate professor of psychology.

The Rutgers‒Camden nursing school, which has been at the forefront of efforts to vaccinate South Jersey residents, continued its significant vaccination contributions through an outreach program that sent nursing students, faculty, and other health care professionals door-to-door to offer vaccinations in communities where vaccination rates are low. Team members also held vaccination events at churches, playgrounds, parks, and schools where Rutgers–Camden nursing students administered vaccine shots. Students addressed fears and uncertainties about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. “The more accurate the information we can communicate, the more we can help improve public health,” said Kevin Emmons, a School of Nursing associate dean and clinical associate professor, who noted that more than 600 were vaccinated in this program.

On campus, Rutgers–Camden opened a vaccination clinic in the Campus Center that served anyone who wanted to get a shot. Powered by the Student Wellness Center team and supported by the School of Nursing and campus volunteers, the vaccine clinic helped to lift the vaccine rates of students to almost 100 percent, as of September 1. In total, more than 400 vaccine shots were administered in the on-campus clinic since it began in May.

Rutgers–Camden team members at a community vaccination event.

Posted in: 2021 Fall, On Campus

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