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COVID-19 vaccinations may begin next week at Las Vegas-area colleges

Updated January 7, 2021 - 5:19 pm

COVID-19 vaccinations for front-line health care workers at universities and colleges in the Las Vegas Valley could begin as early as Monday, a week after schools in some parts of the state began giving shots to similar workers.

The Nevada System of Higher Education, which includes eight schools and more than 107,000 students, released a letter late Wednesday detailing plans for administering the vaccine to employees and students.

The pace of the vaccination effort will unfold differently in various areas. In the Las Vegas Valley, for example, only employees classified as being in Tier 1 — the highest priority group consisting primarily of front-line health care workers — are expected to be inoculated initially. Other areas could begin Tier 2 vaccinations right away, according to the rollout plan.

NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose said in a statement to the Review-Journal that each school has prepared distribution plans in accordance with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s vaccine playbook.

“NSHE is committed to making COVID-19 vaccines available to all who want them, as soon as possible,” she said.

Rose said it’s important to recognize the vaccine isn’t a “cure-all” for COVID-19. But vaccine distribution in concert with other tools such as wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing “can effectively combat COVID-19 so we can all start to make our way back to normal,” she said.

Southern Nevada Health District officials said Wednesday the district has distributed about 21,000 doses of the vaccine — about one-third of the approximately 70,000 doses it has received. Vaccinations began last month for those in Tier 1, including health care providers and emergency responders.

The health district didn’t provide a timeline for when Tier 2 vaccinations — including for those 75 and older, teachers and child care workers and front-line NSHE employees — would begin in Clark County.

Health district officials said Wednesday they are preparing for administering vaccines to as many as 40,000 to 45,000 Clark County School District employees in Tier 2. Some smaller school districts across the state have begun vaccinating school employees.

Vaccinations of staff who are classified by the state as being in Tier 1 have begun at most of the eight NSHE schools, but not in Southern Nevada. That group includes health care faculty and staff, and university police officers.

Employees from Great Basin College in Elko, the University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno began receiving the vaccine last week, Rose wrote.

Tier 1 employees at UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College in Henderson are expected to begin receiving the vaccine Monday at UNLV.

Tier 2 will include “essential NSHE employees who conduct on-campus and in-person face-to-face work with students and/or the public,” Rose wrote. “This category does not include NSHE employees who have been working remotely. Rather, this category is for those employees who are most at risk for exposure, including face-to-face contact, irrespective of whether they serve in an academic or administrative role.”

NSHE anticipates “the remainder of NSHE faculty and staff” — as well as students who are living in residential campus housing — will be eligible for vaccinations in Tier 3, Rose wrote.

“The remaining student body and the public will likely be in Tier 4, which may not begin until later in the spring 2021 semester,” she said.

NSHE vaccination planning efforts are being led regionally by University Police Services directors Adam Garcia for the Southern Command and Todd Renwick for the Northern Command.

The Southern Nevada Health District has designated UNLV as a “point of dispensing,” or POD, that will become operational Monday, according to Rose’s letter. It will allow the university to administer the vaccine to NSHE employees and students and members of the public who are in Tier 1.

A second POD in the region is expected to open Jan. 19 at the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus, according to the letter. It, too, will serve the NSHE community and public.

University Police Services’ Southern Command has developed an online portal, which could go live as early as Friday, that will allow NSHE students and employees to log in and get answers about when and where they could receive the vaccine.

UNLV officials said Thursday it’s unclear when employees and students in each tier will be contacted to receive the vaccine, but those in Tier 1 should receive an email this week with a link to register.

“Every member of our university community is incredibly important to us and we want all of you to have access to the vaccine as soon as possible,” President Keith Whitfield and Executive Vice President/Provost Chris Heavey wrote in a joint letter to the campus community.

The University of Nevada, Reno is finalizing its campus-wide plan for how employees will be categorized into tiers, President Brian Sandoval said in a message Tuesday to the campus community.

University medical personnel fall into Tier 1. Vaccinations began in December and will continue until at least Monday, Sandoval wrote.

The university has asked its deans and vice presidents to provide a list to the human resources department of employees who are eligible to be included in Tier 2.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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