Emily VanGorder – Staff Writer
Gustavus held its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic, offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, on Thursday, April 8 in the Don Roberts Ice Arena. Another clinic was offered on Thursday, April 22, which offered the Pfizer vaccine. Local pharmacies and health and medical clinics are also offering the vaccine to anyone 18 and older.
Pharmacies are given vaccines through a federal allocation, while hospitals and clinics receive them through a state allocation. Minnesota is distributing the vaccine to health coalitions, including the South Central Care Coalition, which Gustavus is a part of. The Coalition receives a certain number of vaccines every week and decides how to distribute them among the nine counties it serves.
“A few weeks ago they gave the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Gustavus, and to MSU. The following week there were no extra vaccines to give to us. This week we are getting the Pfizer vaccine” Director of Health Services Heather Dale said.
The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine has to be administered within 17 to 24 days of the first vaccine, and will be available on May 20-21.
“It’s a little extra challenging because school is ending… and many students won’t be on campus any more. It really is important if you get your first vaccine to get your second vaccine. If we don’t match up first and second doses, then we’re at risk for not getting allocated vaccines in the future. They will give it to places that do it well, so we want to do it really well” Dale said.
Currently, three vaccines have been given emergency use authorization in the U.S.: the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is also known as Janesson, the Moderna vaccine, and the Pfizer vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on pause while FDA committees meet to decide what to do with the vaccine after people who received it developed rare blood clotting disorders, some of which led to stroke or were fatal.
“Initially, we [Gustavus] along with a lot of other colleges and universities thought the Johnson and Johnson was such a great option because it was one dose, and we wouldn’t have to get people to come back. They would be immunized within two weeks instead of five or six. It had the potential to be such a great option… I really appreciate that scientists and medical professionals want to make sure that we’re making really good decisions and are being very thorough in vetting what the risks are” Dale said.
While the potential side effects of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be the most dangerous, most COVID- 19 vaccines have relatively mild side effects as the body’s immune system works to create antibodies.
Junior Oaklee Ringeisen received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the vaccination clinic on April 8.
“I threw up twice, had a headache, body pains, and severe chills” Ringeisen said.
“I got the Pfizer vaccine. I had some mild side effects from my first dose, including a fever and stuffy nose. I don’t have a lot of concerns about getting the second dose since I got sick from the first dose. Usually only one of the doses will elicit such a robust immune response, so my white blood cells are more than ready for round two” Junior Korinna Hylen said.
“People use the argument that COVID-19 doesn’t cause bad symptoms in most college students… I would say, “nor does the vaccine”, so why not do something for the good of our community and for the greater good of humanity that will help slow something down that has killed millions of people” Dale said.
According to an article in the New York Times, getting into a car is more dangerous than getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The article also mentions that humans are often more worried about small risks, like shark attacks or side effects from vaccines, despite the fact that they are much less likely to happen than large and common dangers, like car accidents.
“Historically, we know that vaccines have saved our society. Vaccines eradicated smallpox. Nothing else. Polio was eradicated in this country by vaccines. Unfortunately, it has started to emerge in other parts of the world, because they don’t have vaccines” Dale said.
Conspiracy theories have surrounded the COVID-19 vaccine since the beginning of the pandemic. Some believe that mRNA vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine alter DNA, or contin microchips that the government uses to track individuals. Some have even gone so far as to call the entire pandemic a hoax. This level of misinformation and conspiracy can make it difficult to decide what risks are acceptable, or even what is true and false.
“I want to recognize that, especially for students, it can be challenging if your parents are apprehensive about you getting the vaccine or themselves getting the vaccine. I do want to acknowledge that depending on who you talk with and the people whom you love and are surrounded by, the messaging can be very confusing. I would encourage people to ask questions and do their own research. I don’t even want anyone to feel bad about questioning how they should proceed. I do want to emphasize that the science and the evidence is very, very clear that vaccination is very safe and is very helpful, and will be very helpful in getting us out of this pandemic” Dale said.