Effort Includes Joint Statement, Video PSA and Stepped-Up Campus Advocacy Activities
Baltimore, Md. (Feb. 3, 2021) – University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Jay A. Perman and presidents of the system’s 12 universities have joined together in a special promotional effort to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations across Maryland. This multimedia campaign—designed to dovetail with state activities to promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines, especially in communities with vaccine hesitancy—will also highlight the many ways USM faculty, staff, and students are contributing to fight the pandemic.
“Our presidents wanted to do this campaign,” Perman said. “They wanted a strong joint statement that would demonstrate their confidence in the vaccines, and they wanted to publicly pledge to get vaccinated themselves once they’re eligible. Our intent isn’t just to persuade members of our campus communities to get vaccinated; it’s to persuade all Marylanders—especially those most at risk, those who are suffering disproportionately, those who might have concerns about safety or efficacy.”
The USM campaign is designed to support a Maryland Department of Health (MDH) “GoVax” awareness campaign that will launch this week and will dovetail with initiatives of local public health agencies.
In the statement, the USM presidents emphasize that it is critical to demonstrate their trust in the vaccine and to do so specifically because of distrust that exists in communities of color.
“America’s chronic inequality in health care access, its race-based disparities in health outcomes, and history of racism and exploitation in medical research and care have made Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities justifiably skeptical,” the statement notes. “However, members of these communities are at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying from it.”
Of the 12 USM presidents, more than half are Black women and men.
“Through this pledge, we [hope to] … ensure the communities we serve get the full protection of a COVID vaccine, so that, together, we can end this virus for good,” the statement says.
“We trust the people who developed and tested these vaccines. In fact, some of them are the USM’s own faculty and alumni,” Chancellor Perman said. “So, yes, we’re confident in the science and in the scientists.”
The video message from the USM presidents will affirm the statement and emphasize their pledge to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. The video will be released throughout the state. It will endorse themes such as service, humanity, trust, and protection of our most vulnerable citizens.
With the approved vaccines bringing the first sign of hope since the pandemic became widespread in the U.S. during winter 2020, the USM presidents want to underscore the importance of redoubling efforts as the nation enters the next stretch of defeating the pandemic.
The USM takes great pride in the leadership its institutions have already shown in fighting COVID-19, through vaccine development and other notable endeavors in service and teaching.
Last month, the COVID vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) gained FDA approval for emergency use. University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) alumna Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her colleague Dr. Barney Graham led the team of scientists at NIAID who helped develop the Moderna vaccine.
The School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) led clinical trials of the vaccine to determine safety and efficacy, enabling its quick approval—with the prospect of saving countless lives.
UMB President Bruce Jarrell marked his first day as president last fall by taking part in the vaccine trial.
UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and his wife Jacqueline also took part in the trial—to highlight the urgent need for people of color to participate in COVID-19 studies and vaccination, and to help build trust in the science and scientists behind the vaccine.
In naming her its 2020 co-Marylander of the Year, the Baltimore Sun saluted Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at UMB’s School of Medicine. The Sun editorial said, “As one of two principal investigators for the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network … Dr. Neuzil has led a major effort to develop and test safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines under the country’s Operation Warp Speed public-private partnership.”
Several USM institutions are in discussions with the Maryland Department of Health and local health departments to serve as vaccine distribution sites for their own students, faculty, and staff, and in some cases, for residents in the surrounding communities as well. Meanwhile, nursing students from UMB and Towson University are exiting early to join the workforce in battling COVID.
The USM is working on pathways to engage current nursing and pharmacy students in the state’s mass vaccination program. These paths include direct employment of USM students by health care institutions, volunteer opportunities, and options to offer for-credit clinical rotations to students engaged in mass vaccination efforts so they might serve while making progress toward their degree.
The USM COVID Research & Innovation Task Force launched a Public Health Challenge to benefit USM students and campus communities, soliciting creative video and social media campaigns urging Marylanders to get vaccinated and to comply with safe COVID practices.
The University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) University Health Center has formed a task force on vaccine distribution. The task force will emphasize distribution of accurate information about vaccines to staff, faculty, and students and compliance with CDC guidelines.
Salisbury University (SU) will support the Maryland COVID-19 vaccination effort on campus by sharing information on the initiative via the SU COVID-19 webpage, campus email, social media, SU Parent Portal, campus signage, and digital publications such as the weekly SU News e-newsletter. SU President Charles Wight will promote the effort directly through his weekly COVID-19 virtual briefing and SU News message to students, faculty, staff, and parents.
Bowie State University (BSU) is engaging faculty, staff, and students in town hall meetings to encourage its community to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. A social media campaign, and ongoing weekly email communications, will support vaccine education and communication strategies during the spring semester.
Frostburg State will promote the benefits and safety of the vaccine via several internal communications vehicles, including weekly emails from President Ronald Nowaczyk, virtual town halls, and email campaigns.
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) will partner with the state for freezer access, given the ultra-cold conditions in which the Pfizer vaccine will be stored.
Finally, at Coppin State, School of Nursing Professor Charlotte Wood recently was appointed to the State of Maryland COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group. The group is focusing on communications strategies addressed specifically to diverse groups throughout Maryland.
The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.
Systemwide, student enrollment exceeds 172,000. The USM and its institutions compete successfully nearly $1.5 billion in external grants and contracts annually. USM institutions and programs are among the nation’s best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit www.usmd.edu.