3/12/21 Students in Line for Vaccine

Student and resident assistant Sarah Peterson is seen in line to turn in her vaccine form, as many others wait to fill out a form or receive the vaccine. 

College students who were apparently ineligible for COVID-19 immunization under Indiana guidelines received the vaccine on Friday.

Some students were able to make COVID-19 vaccination appointments at Walgreens on U.S. 231 in Lafayette on Thursday, in spite of Indiana State Department of Health guidelines that exclude the college demographic from doing so.

Indiana currently allows residents 50 and older, first responders, those who work in health-care settings and other prioritized Hoosiers such as teachers to schedule immunization appointments.

But 18-year-old Madelyn Long walked out of the pharmacy late Friday morning with a bandage on her arm after she made an appointment earlier Thursday night.

A line is seen forming at the Walgreens that began offering vaccines to those in "congregate living," with many Purdue students coming in to r…

Sophomore in the College of Engineering Emme Longman also received her first dose Friday. Longman is a member of the sorority Phi Sigma Rho and said she heard about being possibly eligible through her sorority as a student in "congregate living."

“It was easy,” Longman said after leaving the vaccination room with a bandage on her arm. “I feel good now. I feel like I’ve done my civic duty.”

Longman said she was initially unsure whether she would be able to get the vaccine today. She said she thought because she is on immunosuppressants that might make her eligible.

“I think as long as you get approved online for it, I don’t think they ask you why you’re getting it,” Longman said after checking in to get her first dose.

Thursday night, students swarmed to Walgreens’ website after they realized they fell into one of the pharmacy’s accepted categories: “I am a resident or staff member in a congregate living facility.”

Indiana's guidelines say that only workers in congregate-living facilities such as dorms are eligible for vaccination, not residents.

One resident assistant was vaccinated Friday morning as an employee in congregate living.

An RA for Windsor Residence Hall, junior Sarah Peterson said her residence hall administrator sent Windsor RAs an email letting them know that as employees in congregate-living facilities, they are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Within hours of students being alerted through various GroupMe channels Thursday night, Walgreens’ scheduling system went from accepting appointments to being fully booked for the next three days. Group chats for residence halls, Greek organizations and campus clubs were quickly flooded with messages about students’ potential vaccine eligibility.

It is unclear how many of Walgreens’ appointments were made by students.

The vaccinations provided by Walgreens are the two-dose variety, and the company uses both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to the Walgreens website. When patients sign up for the vaccine, they schedule both dosages at the same time on Walgreens' scheduling portal.

Students living in dorms ostensibly fit Walgreens' congregate-living category, though local health officials say the general college demographic is not yet eligible.

“Based on the latest eligibility criteria from the Indiana Department of Health, that rumor does not appear to be accurate,” Dr. Jeremy Adler, Tippecanoe County’s health officer, said in an email Thursday night.

After The Exponent learned that some students were vaccinated Friday morning, reporters asked for further clarification on students’ eligibility. Adler said the health department contacted Walgreens shortly after he received The Exponent's questions.

"Apparently there was a misunderstanding about the eligibility criteria," Adler said in an email Friday afternoon. "The current eligibility criteria does not include college students who reside in dormitories unless they meet other high risk criteria."

It is unclear whether those who have made appointments will receive their vaccines as scheduled. A Walgreens employee directed The Exponent's follow-up call to the company's public relations office, and The Exponent did not receive a call back.

CVS and Walgreens employees said they are not vaccinating ineligible college students in phone calls Thursday night and Friday morning, respectively.

Walgreens employees asked for patients’ names, proof of appointment and insurance information when checking people in for their vaccination appointment, two students who were vaccinated Friday confirmed.

Justin Dilly, a manager at the Walgreens on Sagamore Parkway in West Lafayette, said everyone who was there prior to 10:30 a.m. Friday was “clearly 50 and older.”

Kathleen Martinus, Alyssa Taylor and Alexandra Weliever contributed reporting to this story.

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