This story was originally published June 23. It has been updated for the BuckeyeBound edition.
Getting vaccinated can do more than prevent students, faculty and staff from contracting COVID-19 — it can bring back pre-pandemic Ohio State.
University spokesperson Ben Johnson said in an email as of July 22, over 71 percent of Ohio State’s students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated. He said the estimate likely underrepresents the true vaccination rate and still encourages people to get the shot and report their vaccination status back to Ohio State.
Melissa Shivers, senior vice president for Student Life, said the university will consider removing COVID-19 guidelines if it reaches the target 70-80 percent vaccination rate and aligns with Ohio Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. She said she hopes people, particularly first-year students, understand the importance of getting vaccinated to enjoy their experience on campus.
“I think it’s going to be even more important for us to continue to follow the guidance by the CDC and looking at our particular situation on campus to figure out what kind of adjustments we will need to be able to make and in order to continue to keep the campus healthy and safe,” Shivers said.
Johnson said Ohio State is tracking COVID-19 vaccination rates using voluntary self-reporting, records of vaccinations performed through the Wexner Medical Center and data from the Ohio Department of Health on students and employees who have been vaccinated throughout Ohio.
The university removed the mask mandate for vaccinated individuals on all areas of campus except public transportation and the medical center June 9. Ohio State will also reduce on-campus isolation and quarantine housing availability during the academic year, the Academic Affairs and Student Life committee announced May 19.
“I think that a part of the incentive that we’ve said to people is, ‘Hey, we need you to get vaccinated because it helps us to be able to feel better about the community that we are bringing back into Ohio State,’” Shivers said.
To aid in vaccination efforts, Ohio State opened an additional vaccine clinic at McCampbell Hall, an outpatient care center, June 24.
Ryan Haley, senior director of ambulatory services at the Wexner Medical Center, said the location is strategically located for staff and expects 20-40 people will be vaccinated each day.
“It doesn’t matter what care you’re delivering, whether it’s vaccines or any other preventive care, you want to make it convenient for consumers, so I think that it just falls really in line with that,” Haley said.
Marti Leitch, a spokesperson for the Wexner Medical Center, said the new facility is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for those 18 years and older. Individuals can schedule appointments at mychart.osu.edu .
The vaccination center at Jesse Owens North Recreation Center will remain open, with plans underway for the center to provide both testing and vaccinations, Shivers said.
Haley said the goal of opening the JO North vaccine location in May was to improve the vaccination rates of Ohio State students and faculty, due to its convenient location.
In a universitywide email July 9, University President Kristina M. Johnson announced Ohio State’s 65 percent vaccination rate plus incentives the university will offer for students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 — including $50,000 in gift cards, football tickets and parking passes.
The Schottenstein Center’s vaccination center closed late May as the demand for vaccines decreased and the size and daily cost to maintain the center was no longer warranted, Haley said. Same-day clinics, such as the Upper Arlington sites, outpatient care facilities and the McCampbell Hall center, are now open for those who still need to get vaccinated.
Shivers said she hopes people will “care enough about each other” to follow the expectations the university outlines and encourages those who haven’t to get vaccinated.
“I would simply say that we are working really hard to bring back that iconic Ohio State experience that people have either had as current students at Ohio State or thinking about those students who are joining our community brand new, who have been really challenged over the past 15 months as seniors, to have a typical experience,” Shivers said.