Vaccines are an undeniable necessity in our epidemiologically vulnerable world. They are especially vital on college campuses as they foster community immunity in an environment particularly susceptible to outbreaks.
UT offers a comprehensive range of immunizations for students, faculty and staff. Forty Acres Pharmacy provides immunizations to faculty and staff, and University Health Services does the same for students.
While information about immunizations and their respective distributions are readily available on both the UHS and Forty Acres Pharmacy websites, confusion among students regarding how and where to get vaccines remains.
In order to alleviate this confusion, UHS and Forty Acres Pharmacy should consolidate the information on each of their websites onto one online platform. This would be an easy solution to implement as building a website with information that already exists requires few resources.
Haley Wolf, a recent UT biology graduate, faced some conflict when she sought a yellow fever vaccine before a Global Medical Training trip to Ecuador.
Wolf said the organization required students to complete training modules to inform themselves of health risks specific to the region they would be visiting. She learned yellow fever presented a minor threat to travelers, and she had an option to get the vaccine. She decided for it.
“It was pretty inconvenient for me to get this vaccine,” Wolf said. “Forty Acres Pharmacy didn’t have it because of the national shortage, so I had to go home to Arlington and then drive to Plano to get it because offices in Austin were booked.”
For this specific vaccine, there is nothing UT could have done to combat the national shortage. The problem here is a gap in communication and information. After Wolf checked the Forty Acres Pharmacy website and failed to find the vaccine she needed, she immediately started looking off campus. There are two problems with Wolf’s approach.
First, Forty Acres Pharmacy only offers immunizations for faculty and staff, yet many students such as Wolf believe they can get their own there. Second, for most vaccines, it is not necessary to go off campus because UHS offers a wide range of vaccines to students.
“Immunizations, including travel immunizations and anti-malarial prescriptions, are available to students on campus through (UHS),” Terry Weaver, chief pharmacist at Forty Acres Pharmacy, said in an email.
The Forty Acres Pharmacy website previously did not reroute students to UHS when they came looking. They amended this problem as of Aug. 26 after the Texan brought it to their attention.
“The website for Forty Acres Pharmacy has been updated to clarify that point,” Weaver said.
While all the information regarding faculty, student and travel vaccines are easily available online, they are in different places, and this can confuse students who don’t know how to navigate both resources.
Forty Acres Pharmacy and UHS could take the website clarification further by consolidating all of their immunization information onto one web page. This would combat the uncertainty students may face while seeking vaccines.
Dronamraju is a public health sophomore from Dallas.