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Meet the UW Pharmacy students helping bring COVID vaccines across the state

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Starting Tuesday, nine mobile vaccination clinics will start rolling out to help bring COVID-19 vaccines across Wisconsin. Members of the National Guard will staff the teams, but so will students from the UW System.

"We call it Operation Immunization," said Maggie Hoernke, a third-year PharmD student at UW-Madison.

She, along with second-year PharmD student Nikki Batterman, co-chair the outreach program on Immunizations for the UW student organization, Wisconsin Society of Pharmacy Students.

"Usually our focus is really heavily on flu clinics," Hoernke said.

But within the last month, they've turned their attention to COVID-19.

Governor Tony Evers (D-WI) announced the mobile vaccination clinics on Friday, and all weekend Hoernke and Batterman worked to recruit their peers to help out.

Hoernke will actually be helping administer vaccinations.

"I think that it's really cool that we can be used in that way to help take that burden off of other health care providers," she said.

Batterman will be helping out with a different program, assisting pharmacies across southern Wisconsin with patient screening.

"I think it will really help take the burden off of them so that they're not completely overwhelmed by all of the logistical work and all of the patients who are going to need to be vaccinated," she said.

They both say it's an exciting time to be using what they've learned in the classroom to save lives.

"The other day, I was talking to my dad, and he was like, 'This is awesome! You get to help with something that's going to be part of history!'" Batterman said.

Hoernke says the experience is helping boost her confidence.

"I'm really trying to work on the mindset of, 'I'm a student pharmacist. I'm ready to help. How can I help?' -- rather than, 'Oh sorry. I'm just a student. Let me find someone who can help you,'" she said.

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