MISSOULA ꟷ The University of Montana began its first round of vaccinating employees and those who fall under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Phase 1a category for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
This week, UM Pharmacy Manager Kenneth Chatriand and staff in UM’s Curry Health Center administered more than 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine to University employees who are considered health care personnel or have close, regular contact with COVID-positive persons as essential workers.
“This week we vaccinated our staff who work directly with patients, those who are testing students and those in health science fields,” Chatriand said. “We also vaccinated many in our police force who are often transporting positive students.”
Chatriand said the vaccination rollout on campus allows “us to hit the ground running so we can focus on our jobs and keep our campus safe and healthy.”
Rachael Zins, assistant professor of pharmacy in UM’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy, was one of the UM health sciences faculty to receive the vaccine Thursday.
She said teaching pharmacy students to safely and effectively administer the vaccine is a critical component of becoming a pharmacist, and it’s good experience for them to not only receive the vaccine but administer it as well.
“We teach our students to be confident in their ability to administer any kind of vaccine, because they have to be certified to do so,” Zins said. “That starts with understanding a patient’s disease states, known allergies or if the patient is immunocompromised.”
Zins said she never imagined she’d teach in a pandemic or that her students would have the hands-on experience of administering a vaccine in a modern public health crisis.
“I never thought in my life this would be happening,” she said. “But it has been a moment to share with students in understanding that we are all only human and anything can happen.”
Walter Hailes, a research associate in UM’s Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism, also received the vaccine Thursday. Hailes works closely with human subjects in an exercise lab, where breathing heavily and rapidly is “a daily occurrence,” he said.
“I feel good today, and I’m glad I’m here,” Hailes said. “Eliminating the risk, especially in our research, is so important. While we’re all waiting for a return to normal, the best we can do is follow the protocol and wait for cases to go down.”
Brent Ruby, a professor in UM’s School of Integrative Physiology and Athletic Training, said getting vaccinated was a historic moment.
“This is a significantly huge moment for me and not one I’m going to forget,” Ruby said. “I’m in awe how quickly and thoughtfully our staff in health sciences, the pharmacy and Curry Health Center have responded to this and how quickly they’re moving to keep all of us safe.”
The UM Pharmacy is owned and operated by the University’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and is located in UM’s Curry Health Center. Chatriand will work with students staffed at the pharmacy and with UM’s College of Health programs, including nursing students at Missoula College, to organize vaccine distribution.
Chatriand said he expects to receive about 500 Moderna vaccines next week, with plans to organize distribution for those who fall within the state guidance of the vaccination phased categories.
Capitalizing on its robust bioscience infrastructure, research facilities and statewide network of student and alumni pharmacists, the State of Montana selected the flagship as an approved vaccine holding and distributor center in December, allowing UM to serve as one of Montana’s most significant vaccine distributors.