Connecticut Public Health College Corps at QU begins campaign to decrease vaccine hesitancy

July 27, 2021

College Corps students set to begin vaccine outreach among New Haven residents were acknowledged at a press conference held by Gov. Ned Lamont

After a week of virtual training with the Connecticut Public Health College Corps, Kripa Patel, a junior health science major at Quinnipiac University, was eager to go out and make a mark in her home state.

“We have been learning a lot about how we can decrease vaccine hesitancy in the community and increase vaccination rates among college-aged students,” said Patel, a Guilford resident. “We’re super excited to take what we’ve learned and make a difference in New Haven.”

The Connecticut Public Health College Corps is a collaboration between Quinnipiac and the state Department of Public Health to address vaccine hesitancy among those ages 18 to 24 in the state. It includes about 110 college students.

On Monday, the 24 College Corps students who are set to begin targeting Elm City residents were acknowledged at a press conference held by Gov. Ned Lamont on the New Haven Green. The governor stressed the importance of coronavirus vaccinations, especially among younger people, in the wake of the delta variant.

“Every 100 people we get vaccinated is going to save a lot of lives, keep our schools open, keep our teams playing and ensure you guys having a really great fall,” Lamont told the college students. “The College Corps is enormously important. It is young people talking to young people about the importance of getting vaccinated.”

Lamont’s press conference included Heather Aaron, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Health; Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz; Maritza Bond, New Haven’s director of health; and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, who welcomed the College Corps students.

“There have been many partnerships with the state that have helped us be successful and we rely on those institutions like Quinnipiac University,” Elicker said. “Quinnipiac University, because of its reputation, its medical school and other departments, is a very important partner in ensuring that we keep our residents healthy.”

Quinnipiac was selected to host the College Corps program because of its wide-ranging expertise in public health in its School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing. It includes students who will spend the next four weeks working in communities where vaccination rates among those ages 18-24 are not as strong as their older counterparts, as identified by the state Department of Public Health.

“This is a very important partnership that we’ve engaged in with the state Department of Public Health,” said Janelle Chiasera, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Quinnipiac. “We have been provided a unique opportunity to recruit students from their communities, educate them and deploy them back into their communities to help enhance and expand communication and outreach on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our students are here to help, they are excited and bring with them innovative ideas regarding what may work within their communities with people their age – that is the value add,” added Chiasera. “It was so nice for them to be at the press conference to see the importance of the work. I can’t think of a better way to kick off their first day of this work.”

Batool Naqvi, a senior at Quinnipiac, said she hoped to convince people her age from New Haven to take advantage of Griffin Hospital’s free mobile vaccine clinic available on the city green.

“I’ve seen a lot of my peers be reluctant to receive the vaccine for a number of reasons,” the Scarsdale, N.Y. resident said. “As a health science major and a firm believer in science, I think it is important to increase awareness about why the vaccine is important and how effective it has been.”

Irsa Awan, a graduate health science student at Quinnipiac, grew up in the New Haven area and was eager to make a difference.

“You obviously want to give back to the community you grew up in,” said Awan, a Hamden resident. “You see so many people from all different walks of life who are conflicted about getting the vaccine. I really want to promote the vaccine, increase knowledge and give people my age reassurance.”

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