Optometry Faculty Assist Vaccination Efforts

As UC Berkeley’s general community returned to in-person work this Fall, Berkeley Optometry’s faculty assisted in the effort to vaccinate students, staff and faculty. This summer, the President of the University of California, Dr. Michael Drake, announced that everyone returning to campus in the Fall would be required, with rare exceptions, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As part of the effort, Berkeley Optometry’s clinical faculty, including Drs. Kuniyoshi Kanai, Anne Tasaki, Meredith Whiteside, and Kerri Yoshiyama, vaccinated members of the UC Berkeley campus community.

In an effort to ensure that clinical faculty could provide patient care in alignment with the expanding scope of practice in the state of California, Clinic Administration, under the leadership of Associate Dean Dr. Chris Wilmer, sponsored the first group of faculty members to participate in immunization certification. This certification process began over two years ago when Drs. Kanai, Tasaki, Whiteside, and Yoshiyama completed the Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery Course – the same coursework completed by pharmacists to administer immunizations. The program required self-study coursework, in-person classwork as well as a skills assessment. “When we began the pharmacy course, I never thought that we would use these skills as part of the public health effort to mitigate a pandemic” said Dr. Whiteside, “but to get everyone vaccinated, we need an all-hands on deck approach.” Additional training was also required; participating faculty completed a training through the California Department of Public Health, as well as training required for UHS staff. “This effort highlights the continued close collaboration between the UC Berkeley Optometry Clinic and University Health Services. The strength of the partnership not only kept our patients, staff, and clinicians safe in the early days of the pandemic lockdown, when our eye clinics remained open for urgent care, but also allowed us to contribute to the vaccination efforts that helped the campus and city of Berkeley achieve some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country,” said Dr. Yoshiyama. “It’s really nice to be able to support one another and our shared community. We’re grateful for our partnership.”

Berkeley Optometry currently teaches students coursework and skills related to injections as it relates to eye care but future coursework will be expanded to include vaccinations. Dr. Kanai attests, “Once you have mastered the basic understanding and skills through training, the vaccination procedure itself is achievable for optometrists in a variety of clinical settings.” Dr. Tasaki agrees, and adds: “It’s rewarding to be a part of the public health effort to get people vaccinated and to keep our campus and community safe.”