Nursing students in San Mateo Co. will soon be COVID-19 vaccinators, helping cut down backlog

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Nursing students in San Mateo County will soon start helping administer coronavirus vaccines following ABC7's push to get the state involved.

"It's a huge, huge relief," said Janis Wisherop, the interim director for the nursing program at College of San Mateo or CSM. "I don't cry much, but I've had some healthy cries in being grateful."

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Wisherop contacted the ABC7 I-Team with a problem.

"We have the students out there ready to work," she said. "But, the county won't respond."

In her role, Wisherop oversees 100 nursing students who are qualified to administer vaccines and need to complete clinical hours. But, she says over the past four months the San Mateo County Health Dept. never got back to her requests. Following our story, that's changing.

"The announcement got everybody's attention," she said. "It got that ball rolling, it was really instrumental, and I'm really grateful."

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As another California region reaches near-zero remaining ICU capacity, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is taking an "all hands on deck" approach to administering the COVID-19 vaccine.



Wisherop says the plan is to have CSM become the next mass vaccination site in the county. She hopes to have 10 to 15 vaccination stations inside the school auditorium to allow for at least 1,000 doses to be administered per day. The county is expected to review the plan for CSM's vaccination site on Friday. If approved, it could open starting next week.

"That exposure will help get many counties engaging with nursing programs and other allied health programs," she said.

Wisherop noted other nursing programs at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County and De Anza College in Santa Clara County are now allowing students to start administering vaccines. She hopes the rest of the state will follow suit.

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ABC7 asked the Governor on Tuesday.

"We've been in touch with the state board of registered nursing with hopes to allow 30,000 nursing students, who've just been trained and certified to help administer vaccines, to help aide the backlog. Would you consider that?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"Yes, in fact, enthusiastically so," Newsom said. "Our fire agencies and our nursing schools will be essential and critical."

California's Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly agreed.

"This is a perfect way to match both that experience and support the state in the fight against COVID," Ghaly said referring to nursing students.

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Sharon Goldfarb, the President of the California Association of Associate Degree Nursing is worried it will be all talk.

"We really want it to be more than just a soundbite," Goldfarb said. "We want the details of how, when, where, and who."

It's crucial help as California's distribution backlog is widening.

2.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been shipped to the state, yet only 26 percent have been used. That's down from 31 percent reported Tuesday, according to state data.

Gov. Newsom announced this week 14 new vaccinator categories including a variety of specific healthcare roles like physician assistants, nurse midwives, and psychiatric technicians. This is in addition to pharmacists, dentists, and 15 National Guard strike teams.

The California Department of Public Health told ABC7 they are working on how nursing students will be recruited to help administer vaccines moving forward.

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