VCU Med Students Frustrated by Vaccine Decision

Jan 8, 2021

Update: On January 12th, VCU announced it would begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to students in clinical and patient-facing environments.

The school estimates about 2,100 students will qualify.

Original story: Many people who would like to get the COVID-19 vaccine are complaining that they’re not eligible yet – among them,  third and fourth-year medical students at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The decision has meant a big change in their education.

VCU won't vaccinate med students yet, so they're barred from hospital duty.
Credit VCU

Working at the hospital is an important part of training for third and fourth year medical students at VCU.

“We’re often the first person the patient sees and interacts with from the medical team,” says one student, who asked us to withhold her identity. She says providing early care is important to becoming a doctor.

“We take histories, we develop care plans, we assist in any tasks that are helpful to the intern or the resident.”

But Virginia Commonwealth’s Medical Center says it’s immunizing employees first and doesn’t have enough vaccine for students, so it’s banned them from working in the hospital – a decision that seems unfair to many.   

“People in IT and payroll who are working at home are eligible to receive the vaccine,” the anonymous student notes.

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech-Carillion say their med students are eligible for vaccination and will continue to work in their hospitals. Students at VCU worry the lack of clinical experience will hurt them professionally.

“When we apply for residencies, we will be compared to students who had different opportunities than us.”

VCU says it will vaccinate students as soon as possible, but until then it’s not safe to let them work in the hospital.