Stanford Medicine researchers found that two-thirds of incarcerated residents in California who were offered a COVID-19 vaccine accepted at least one dose, an encouraging sign that other jails and prisons nationwide can offer the same protection for their vulnerable carceral populations.
Stanford is one of over 200 colleges across the nation to implement a vaccine requirement. Vaccine mandates have been a topic of debate across higher education, but researchers say that immunization requirements are crucial for campus safety — and these requirements are not entirely new.
Stanford researchers continued to emphasize the importance of vaccinations after Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution restarted on Friday. The risk of side effects is only one in a million, researchers said — much less than the risk of complications from COVID-19.
Santa Clara County expanded vaccine eligibility to residents and workers 16 and older on Tuesday and has followed federal health agency recommendations to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Every variant of concern has now been detected in Santa Clara County, including the B.1.1.7 strain originally discovered in the United Kingdom, B.1.351 in South Africa, P.1 in Brazil, B.1.525 and B.1.52 in New York and L452R, now known as B.1.427 and B.1.429, in California.
California will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to residents age 50 and older on April 1 and residents 16 and older on April 15. Because of the current shortage of doses in Santa Clara County, appointment availability will depend on vaccine supply.
Though mild side effects exist for the COVID-19 vaccines, they are safe and effective in preventing symptomatic disease. College students could receive their first doses by summer, and vaccines for younger children are still being tested.
Stanford Health Care (SHC) began vaccinating workers in education and childcare, emergency services and agriculture and food — newly eligible groups defined by county guidelines earlier this month.
Some student staff members have scheduled vaccine appointments under new county eligibility guidelines, but it is still unclear whether other staff like professors and custodial workers can do the same.
The first two California cases of the South African SARS-CoV-2 variant were recently detected by surveillance efforts at Stanford’s Clinical Virology Lab. The variant was found in both Santa Clara and Alameda counties, and though it is more transmissible, vaccines remain mostly effective against it.
Santa Clara County and other local counties plan to expand vaccine eligibility to additional groups in the coming weeks.
Despite the recent emergence of COVID-19 variants, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will remain effective in the near future and can easily be updated, according to Stanford researchers.
Medicine professor Dean Winslow said Stanford’s interim winter plans were “not unreasonable.” But he and clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine Shashank Ravi agree that the on-campus cases, taken in the context of local surges, were reason enough for Stanford to cancel plans.
Stanford says that the overall positivity rate in student testing programs remains “low.” Students are tested twice upon arrival to campus — with the option to be tested through a mailed kit before coming — and then tested twice weekly. The positive tests “are a reminder of the importance of testing,” according to the University.
On Saturday and Sunday, Stanford Medicine offered vaccine doses at the Stanford Hospital atrium through walk-in appointments. These availabilities were intended only for clinical staff due to an apparent low number of vaccination appointments over the weekend, according to four Stanford Medicine researchers and faculty who either saw the situation first-hand or personally knew someone who had been vaccinated early.
Stanford researchers are tackling the technical and ethical public health challenges that come with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“When COVID started, a lot of the clinics weren’t open and seeing patients as quickly as [they] needed to be seen,” said Melissa Bondy, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health. People reduced their cancer screening practices and were less likely to return to clinics to follow up on any suspicious findings or symptoms, according to Bondy.