MCPHS University Continues Stringent Testing Protocols and Begins Training Vaccinators
The University has maintained positivity rates well below the numbers of their campuses’ states and is training hundreds of individuals to administer COVID-19 vaccines.
MCPHS COVID-19 Coordinator Sheila Seed, PharmD, MPH, CTH®, AFTM RCPS (Glasg), RPh, is a busy woman. By 6 a.m. every morning she is checking her email for messages from the Broad Institute, with whom the University has partnered to process COVID-19 tests, for news of any positive results. If they do receive word of any positive test results, Dr. Seed and her COVID-19 team get started right away on contact tracing. They interview the relevant parties about their symptoms, where they are located, and with whom they’ve been in close contact. They then call all close contacts to tell them to quarantine; if those contacts are members of another university, the team contacts that university. And if the positive party is an MCPHS residential student, Dr. Seed and team contact MCPHS Residential Life to start the process of isolating the affected individual. It’s a thorough and rigorous process designed to keep the MCPHS Community as safe as possible.
Relatively speaking, though, the team has not needed to perform contact tracing too often. Thanks largely to easy, frequent, and quick testing—and the compliance of the University Community—MCPHS has been able to keep positivity rates low. Compared to the campus states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the statistics are even more impressive. As of February 1, 2021, Massachusetts’ all-time testing positivity rate was 3.9%, while New Hampshire’s was 5.2%. The following are MCPHS campuses’ cumulative testing statistics as of the same date:
- Total Test Results Received: 71,382
- Total Negative Tests: 71,031
- Total Positive Cases: 351
- Negative Test %: 99.5%
- Positive Test %: 0.5%
“We can mitigate the spread because we’re testing so often,” says Dr. Seed, allowing the University to quickly isolate anyone with the virus. Most universities around the country aren’t testing as often as MCPHS and other Boston-area schools. “We are very stringent compared to other universities nationwide,” she adds. She credits the MCPHS Community for complying with the testing regimen and safety protocols, and for the COVID-19 team for their extraordinary efforts. She’s found that once people get into a rhythm, they are good about regular testing. And the noninvasive tests—halfway up each nostril, swirl, and done—makes it that much easier. Dr. Seed also credits the “small but mighty” COVID-19 team that works to keep all three MCPHS campuses safe: in addition to her, the team includes Annie Ponterdolph, MPH ‘21; Era Koroveshi; Amy Sabean; Hayley Veno; and Max Saber. “We wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for the team that we have,” she says.
MCPHS has recently stepped up its coronavirus efforts beyond testing by embarking on an aggressive approach to help train and deploy individuals to administer the COVID-19 vaccinations to the greater population. Ordinarily, MCPHS pharmacy students engage in immunization training sessions in April, with a follow-up technique check in July. This year, the University decided to expand and expedite immunization training sessions in January and February for pharmacy students, on all campuses, earlier on in their curriculum, in an effort to increase the number of individuals who can administer COVID-19 vaccines. Sheila Seed teaches immunization to Worcester and Manchester pharmacy students. “We had such an outpouring of people saying, ‘Hey, I want to get on the ground, I want to vaccinate,’ that we’re making it work earlier, she says.” Over 90 students signing up for the early Worcester/Manchester class, and over 100 more Boston students signed up for the early class through that program. “We’re fitting into their incredibly busy schedules,” Seed says, and getting vaccinators on the front lines. Additionally, many MCPHS nursing, pharmacy, and physician assistant students already receive training in immunization delivery as part of their curriculum and can administer vaccines, and the University is encouraging and helping these students to become involved in different roles with the vaccine rollout as part of their experiential/clinical rotations.
MCPHS is also taking action to train pharmacy technicians to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, through the Board of Registration in Pharmacy, Drug Control Program, and Immunization Program, recently announced that it is making COVID-19 vaccines more accessible by authorizing administration by qualified pharmacy technicians. MCPHS decided to take action and launched the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Pharmacy-Based Immunization Administration by Pharmacy Technician Training Program beginning in February. The University will offer the program virtually to licensed pharmacy technicians, who will demonstrate vaccination technique to a pharmacist at their worksite to receive their certification. Certified technicians will then administer COVID-19 vaccinations under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist at their workplace. The program saw over 110 individuals sign up.