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Two PCOM Georgia students give the “thumbs up” sign while working a shift to vaccinate Newton County School System employees at Porter Performing Arts Center in March.

COVINGTON — More than 450 PCOM Georgia medical, pharmacy and physician assistant students are working to meet the need for COVID vaccinators in Georgia.

During a four-day period in March, the PCOM Georgia student vaccinators worked in shifts to administer 1,200 doses of the vaccine to Newton County School System teachers at the Porter Performing Arts Center in Covington. Local pharmacist Jeff Reagan called the students “professional” and “a great help” in the effort.

PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit branch campus of the fully accredited Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The local branch of PCOM Georgia is located in Suwanee.

“It was such an honor to help administer COVID vaccines and play a small part in the progress that has been made through the pandemic,” said student Arya Kishor. “Vaccinating Newton County teachers was especially rewarding because I was able to show my appreciation for all that they have overcome this past year, while also helping them feel safer doing what they love!”

“It felt great to take an active role in helping our communities build immunity,” said student Azalech Hinton. “Having the opportunity to vaccinate teachers was an amazing experience as it allowed me to practice some of the things we learned in our Primary Care Skills class and was a welcoming and helpful environment for my first time administering vaccines. The teachers were very excited to get vaccinated.”

Due to a permanent curriculum change, first- and second-year medical students were trained early to provide the vaccination service. Third- and fourth-year pharmacy students helped to mix and administer vaccines, while physician assistant students were trained to administer vaccinations during their first year in the 26-month program.

Drawing on materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Immunization Action Coalwition, the Primary Care Skills curriculum includes topics such as vaccinating various age groups, side effects, contraindications, and vaccinations during pregnancy.

Student Sophia Nguyen agreed with her fellow students.

“We had an amazing time and it was a great way to get away from our desks for a bit and give back to the community,” she said.

Kim Lucier, administrative services and events manager, has been seeking opportunities for the students to use their newly acquired vaccination skills. These future physicians, pharmacists and physician assistants have recently participated in close to 20 vaccination efforts including at Oxford College and at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Southwest Atlanta. They’ve even gone door to door in the Tuscany Condominium complex in midtown Atlanta to vaccinate homebound citizens.

According to Pam Marquess, PharmD, the co-owner of three independent pharmacies who has helped facilitate many of PCOM Georgia’s volunteer vaccine opportunities, “The students have been very professional! We are really enjoying having them volunteer.”

As the state works to make vaccine distribution more equity-centric, he is planning an event in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood of Southeast Atlanta, which according to the CDC and census tract data, has a high social vulnerability index.

“We are at a crucial moment in this crisis where nothing is more important than getting as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Jay S. Feldstein, PCOM president. “The students of PCOM and other area health professional schools can and should, under direct medical supervision, play a critical role in scaling up our inoculation efforts to provide a vaccine to all who want one.”

Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing “a whole person approach to care,” PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit http://www.pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500.

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