By Jeff Todd

(CBS4) — As Colorado surpassed one million fully vaccinated people this week, the competition to get doses into people’s arms by CU pharmacy students was just heating up. At the beginning of the semester, the school challenged students to get extracurricular experience in working with vaccine distribution.

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“We were anticipating that once the vaccines were going to become available, we would need to be able to have our students ready to go to support these efforts. They have a few experiential requirements, but this is going to be above and beyond what students would normally do. So, we thought why not make it fun, lets create a competition,” said Dr. Dana Hammer the Faculty Lead for Student Professional Development in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

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Dr. Hammer worked with other faculty to create a competition for students in all four years of pharmacy school. Students are encouraged to track how many vaccines they administer, how many doses they help prepare, how many people they recruited to get the vaccine, and how many they screen at vaccination sites and educate as they wait after getting the shot.

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“I think it was a cool idea to get everyone challenged and have some kind of fun competition,” said Soojin Chang, a fourth year pharmacy student at CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Chang has administered the second-most doses of all the students, thanks in part to her job at a pharmacy at a Safeway.

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“We’ve had a bunch of clinics set up starting late December. So, I’ve just been trying to pick up shifts, and go to different stores,” Chang said. “We have a really important role to play as students and as pharmacists.”

Dr. Hammer says students have helped administer more than 26,000 doses, prepared 28,000 and educated 10,000 people about the vaccine.

“It’s incredible, it’s absolutely incredible,” Dr. Hammer said.

The competition will run through the end of the semester, which will likely coincide with the end of the large vaccine push in Colorado. Dr. Hammer says the winning class will receive a small donation to their class treasury. A small reward but something that helped encourage students to get involved and try to end the pandemic.

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“I think it’s become even more, I guess exciting, for some these students to engage in the opportunities because almost of their school they are doing is online. They are not classes happening on campus,” Dr. Hammer said. “Then they feel good because they know they’re doing a really important service for public health.”

Jeff Todd