As a graduate student working to treat speech disorders at UNI’s Roy Eblen Speech and Hearing Clinic, Alli Prybil's first priority is keeping her patients safe.

So when she learned last week that she was among the first on campus eligible under state guidelines to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Prybil, pictured on the right, jumped at the chance.UNI vaccination

“I did it for others and the people I’m around,” she said shortly after getting her first dose Monday. “I work with clients at our clinic, and I would feel terrible if I got them sick.”

Monday’s vaccination clinic at the Student Health Center (SHC) was run by the Black Hawk County Health Department, which oversees the distribution of vaccines throughout the county. About 120 campus health care workers and police officers received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, said director Shelley O’Connell. 

Although it was the first public vaccination effort on campus, some 40 SHC workers had already been vaccinated over the past few weeks. The county health department also provided training Monday to SHC workers who will be preparing and administering vaccines as the nation’s inoculation efforts gather steam. 

“This was an important step in helping our campus return to normal,” said O’Connell. “We encourage all Panthers to be vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible either on campus, through their medical provider or at one of the state’s pharmacies.”  Vaccine information is available through the Black Hawk County Health department.

UNI police officer Dick PfarrerDick Pfarrer, pictured on the left, was one of the UNI safety officers vaccinated Monday. As a front-line worker with a health condition that leaves him immunocompromised, Pfarrer didn’t hesitate when told he was eligible for the vaccine. 

“I do have a sense of relief now that I received it,” said Pfarrer. 

Prybil, who will get her second dose in March, fell in love with speech pathology while a high school senior in Solon, near Iowa City. It was the same year she decided to attend UNI after marveling at the openness of faculty as she took a campus tour. Prybil graduated last spring in just three years with a degree in communication sciences and disorders and has internships lined up at Iowa hospitals and schools after she finishes her graduate degree.

“When I first walked into the department as a senior in high school, all of the faculty had their doors open and everybody made a point to come out from their offices to say hi and introduce themselves,” she said. “That was the moment that made me decide I wanted to go to UNI, because all of these people took a couple seconds out of their day to come and say something to me.

“And that same idea carried through my whole undergrad education experience. They all know me by name. They know where you come from, your hometown, they know your strengths and weaknesses and they're all just really willing to help.”

Prybil hopes the vaccines signal the light at the end of the tunnel after nearly a year of pandemic. 

“It’s amazing. It’s been so difficult going through this as a young student. This is the era that all of us want to be social, and we want to see friends and family and we want to do all this stuff, and so it's just been really hard to not get to do any of that.”