Pop-up vaccine centres in colleges planned to boost student uptake

Universities planning for blend of on-campus teaching and remote learning from autumn

Trinity College Dublin provost Prof Linda Doyle  with Conor, Becky and Bláthín (5 months old) at the first in-person graduation ceremony since March 2020.  Staff are modelling flows in and out of lecture theatres and testing air quality indoors. Photograph: Alan Betson

Trinity College Dublin provost Prof Linda Doyle with Conor, Becky and Bláthín (5 months old) at the first in-person graduation ceremony since March 2020. Staff are modelling flows in and out of lecture theatres and testing air quality indoors. Photograph: Alan Betson

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The Government is planning to establish pop-up vaccination centres on college campuses in a bid to boost the numbers of students in receipt of Covid jabs once the new academic year gets under way.

The Department of Further and Higher Education is understood to be in discussion with health authorities on the likely demand for vaccines and where the centres will be established.

While many young people have availed of walk-in vaccination clinics, many are also waiting on appointments for their first or second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Latest 14-day Covid-19 figures show that the proportion of positive cases in the population is highest among the college-going 19-24 age group.

A source familiar with the discussions on pop-up vaccination centres said a number of major colleges are being examined as potential sites.

“The aim is to hold these in and around freshers’ week in various colleges, when more students are on campus and have the opportunity to get vaccinated,” the source said.

‘Full student experience’

While the idea of mandatory vaccination for students in order to gain access to campuses has been discussed in some quarters, well-placed sources say there are no plans to do so.

The only exception is for medical and health students who are required to be vaccinated if they wish to take part in Health Service Executive clinical placements.

A number of higher education sources confirmed that students in general will instead be urged to take up offers of a vaccination to ensure they can avail of the “full student experience”.

Students, for example, will need to show proof of vaccination to access indoor college canteens, bars and other facilities, in line with wider public health rules.

Meanwhile, colleges are planning for a combination of on-campus teaching and remote learning in September.

While they are waiting on detailed public health advice and guidelines from the Government, most are planning to have some form of on-site learning for all students.

Lecture theatres

However, limits and social distancing rules are likely to apply to the number who may attend larger lectures.

Trinity College Dublin’s new provost, Prof Linda Doyle, said on Wednesday that all students would have some form of in-person teaching experience from September onwards.

In an online discussion with Trinity’s College Dublin Students’ Union on Wednesday, Prof Doyle said the precise details of how many students would be allowed into lecture theatres and other settings would depend on final public health guidance.

She said staff were modelling flows in and out of lecture theatres and measuring the capacity of lecture halls based on different social distancing guidelines, along with testing air quality indoors.

Prof Doyle said there had been a number of positive developments lately, including the first in-person graduation ceremony which took place in a marquee on Trinity’s front square on Wednesday.

It was the first of a series of small-scale graduation ceremonies planned by the college which will see a total of about 900 students graduate over the coming days .

She also said there would be two freshers’ weeks in the college this year to cater to new first years as well as second years who missed out on last year’s event.

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