Virginia Tech uses new vaccine dashboard to push for vaccinated campus


BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — In order to inform the Hokie community and the Blacksburg community of Virginia Tech’s vaccination status — and show how much more needs to be done to bring back elements of a pre-pandemic environment — school officials created a dashboard showing the number of students and employees who are fully-vaccinated.

According to the newly launched dashboard on the Virginia Tech website — which will be updated twice a week — 29.9 percent of students and 36.5 percent of employees have uploaded their vaccine cards as proof that they are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, as of Thursday, July 1.

“The dashboard tracks our progress,” said Mike Mulhare, assistant vice president for emergency management at Virginia Tech.  “It informs us on where we are and where we need to be. To operate in a near normal environment, our employee and student vaccination percentages need to significantly improve.”

The dashboard displays vaccination percentages as two pie charts, featuring the data for employees and students at all of Virginia Tech’s campuses. However, students who are only taking online courses and have requested a waiver are not counted in the percentages.

Virginia Tech says the dashboard only tallies the vaccination numbers when someone registers their vaccine status. Schiffert Health Center receives student vaccine information while Human Resources receives employee information, but all vaccination data is confidential.

Unless they have exemptions for medical reasons or sincerely-held religious beliefs, Virginia Tech students are required to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 6 in order to attend fall classes on campus. There are also a number of dates by which students need to receive certain vaccines to meet the deadline.

Meanwhile, employees are strongly encouraged to receive a vaccine, especially with the Delta variant emerging.

“We know that vaccination is the most effective tool to protect our workforce and our community,” Mulhare said.

Any employees who are not vaccinated will be required to participate in the university’s surveillance COVID-19 testing program during the fall semester, which will be detailed in the coming weeks.

If there is not continued progress in the vaccination rate of the Hokie community, not only will Virginia Tech require additional mitigation strategies, but the university’s operations likely will be impacted, Mulhare says.

“Our institutes of higher education, they want to get back to a normal learning experience this fall, and they are a congregate setting, and we know that COVID spreads quickly in congregate settings,” said Noelle Bissell, health director for the New River Health District. “Last fall, that’s where we found a lot of our cases, where people gathered socially, and that’s where the infection spreads. So, it’s really important that we have high numbers of people who are vaccinated in those situations and that way, we’re going to decrease the spread.”

According to Bissell, vaccinations not only protect the people who are vaccinated, but they also protect others who may not be able to receive a vaccine for a certain reason or who may have a suboptimal response to a vaccine.

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