COLUMBIA - As summer break draws closer for college students, there's an emphasis to get the COVID-19 vaccine before leaving. 

Everyone 16 and older in Missouri has been eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations since April 9. This includes a majority of college-aged students who may not have been eligible in previous phases.

Brad Myers, Executive Director of Pharmacy and Laboratory Services at MU Health Care, said there's about 1,800 available appointments left to get vaccinated at Faurot Field Friday and Saturday.

"College students and even high schoolers 16 and older are part of the community as well," Myers said. "If they were to contract or come down with COVID, they can also spread it to other populations."

Myers said while he has seen a lot of younger people getting the vaccine, he believes there's still a lot more college students eligible to get it.

"This is your last chance to get both doses before going home," Myers said. 

He said this allows college students to get in a vaccine appointment, for both the first and second dose, in time before many go home, graduate or head off to internships.

Boone County's 5-day rolling average of new cases dropped to a low of 5 on March 31, then rose to a 5-day average of 20 on April 9. The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services said the increase is "largely due to the 18 to 24-year-old population." 

That population makes up 19% of the Boone County population.

MU spokesperson Christian Basi said this is the perfect time to get vaccinated before summer break.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure that students in particular are aware if you get your vaccination in the next week or two, your first dose, you can get your second dose before the end of the semester," Basi said.

Basi said MU is working hard to reach many students about getting the COVID vaccine.

"We are working very hard to reach them through social media, marketing campaigns, signs, email... you name it," Basi said. "We are trying to get out there and get the message out that it is highly encouraged."

As of Thursday, MU's COVID dashboard showed there are 27 active student cases. It shows 3,196 MU students have recovered from COVID-19.

"This number is still very low," Basi said. "This indicates to us that our student population has been doing what's asked of them to do."

In regard to getting the vaccine, Basi said that's an opportunity to help prevent the spread of the disease. 

"It's (MU Health Care vaccination clinic) within walking distance for most individuals. Go over there and schedule an appointment. Go get your vaccination," Basi said.

Sam Fleury, Columbia College spokesman, said students went back to virtual learning after spring break.

"So, we have been communicating with our students about vaccinations and the opportunities they have through email, social media and our internal communications portal," Fleury said. "We have a vaccination awareness team that helps with that information."

He said Columbia College is encouraging students to get vaccinated, whether that's here in Missouri or back at home.

"It's a personal decision, but this is one of the key areas to help fight COVID-19," Fleury said. 

While the 18 to 24 age group is a focus, Fleury said we are all in this fight together. 

"We are all pulling on the same rope and trying to curb the spread of the virus," Fleury said.

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