The first members of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) community are beginning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting in December, Carilion Clinic and other local health systems began administering vaccines to their health care providers. This included their employees who also hold faculty titles at the medical school who received a vaccine because of their clinical roles seeing patients, a group prioritized by the Virginia Department of Health as part of Phase 1a.

As VTCSOM students are returning from winter break, they will be eligible to receive the vaccine through Carilion Clinic. All VTCSOM students interact with patients at Carilion Clinic’s hospitals and outpatient facilities; because of this close contact, students qualify as part of the Phase 1a group under VDH guidelines to receive the vaccine.

“The Phase 1a guidelines include all people serving in health care settings – both paid and unpaid – that may come into contact with patients or infectious materials,” said Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke and Allegheny health districts with VDH and also co-director of the medical school’s Health Systems Science and Interprofessional Practice domain. “Students contribute to patient care and their inclusion in this priority group will help make clinical environments safer.”

“VTCSOM students are an integral part of our patient care team at Carilion Clinic,” said Patrice Weiss, chief medical officer for Carilion. “We are continuing to work with other institutes of higher learning to arrange vaccinations for other students that participate in patient care in our facilities.”

The vaccines will help enable medical students to more safely continue in-person clinical training, a key component of their degree requirements.

“We are deeply appreciative of Carilion Clinic for beginning to distribute the vaccine to our students, recognizing the work they do to contribute to patient care,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Receiving the vaccine will help our students focus on the needs of their patients as they continue their learning and journey to become physicians.”

Most VTCSOM students have returned to the Roanoke region and are under self-quarantine, learning virtually. They are able to sign up for a vaccination opportunity with Carilion as their quarantine periods end and they resume clinical rotations in the coming weeks.