After announcing a COVID-19 vaccine registry for all university employees in February, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln released a registry for all students on Thursday. 

Students, including nonresident and international students, are able to register for the vaccine via an online portal from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, which must be completed by Sunday at 5 p.m.

All UNL students can register for the vaccine using their local Lincoln address, Deb Fiddelke, UNL’s chief communication and marketing officer, said. 

The registry allows students to sign up in advance to be notified by the health department when vaccines are available, which makes the process more efficient, Fiddelke said.

“Creating a specific registry really facilitates the quick opportunity to ensure that anyone within that community is able to be vaccinated who signs up and expresses a desire to do so,” Fiddelke said.

Students who signed up through the previous registry for employees and have already received their first shot do not need to register again, as the health department will cross reference to include UNL students for clinics.

All approved coronavirus vaccines are effective against COVID-19 variants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixteen cases of COVID-19 variants have been identified in Lancaster County as of Friday, April 9.

The university is awaiting guidance from the health department on when vaccines may be available, according to Fiddelke.

She said next steps, such as notifying students and scheduling appointments, will be managed by the county. Once doses are available and students are eligible to schedule an appointment, they will be contacted through the email they provide on the registry.

Lancaster County is the only Nebraska county still restricting its vaccines by age, but health director Pat Lopez said she hopes the county can move into Phase 2B — vaccinations for people ages 16-49 — as soon as possible.

LLCHD expects to provide first doses to residents ages 20 and older, and potential younger residents based on supply, at next week’s clinics scheduled for Monday, Thursday and Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, according to a health department news release.

The university is in constant dialogue with the health department, according to Fiddelke, and worked together to figure out how to facilitate registries for employees and students.

Though university officials highly encourage community members to register and receive a vaccine, there are no plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for the fall, Fiddelke said. 

Institutions such as Rutgers University and Cornell University have announced they will require students to be vaccinated for in-person learning.

‘We're not planning to mandate them in any way, shape or form,” she said. “I've learned in this pandemic to never say never … but we are not gonna require vaccinations or have any sort of a vaccine passport.”

The employee registry was open for a full week, but the student registry is open for a little more than three days. Fiddelke said this is so the health department can start notifying students as early as next week if doses become available. 

Fiddelke said she does not know which vaccine would be used for UNL students, though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be ideal so students would not need two doses. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require three and four weeks between doses, respectively, so receiving both doses before the end of the semester might be difficult for some students. 

Fiddelke said she is hopeful the health department will notify students in advance which vaccine is available so they can decide if the timing works for them as the semester ends.

Students can also receive a vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which provides vaccines to residents 18 years and older across the state.

VaccineFinder can assist individuals in finding a vaccination site if they are late to sign up or wish to find a vaccine for a different reason. Further guidance on finding a COVID-19 vaccine is available here from the CDC.

Myths and facts about COVID-19 vaccines from the CDC can be found here.

Fiddelke said the vaccines will hopefully contribute to a more normal fall semester.

“The more we all get these shots, the more normal next year can be,” she said.

Zach Wendling contributed to the reporting of this article.