Vaccines: Student Experiences

A vaccine. Graphic by Cassandra Matthews

Cassandra Matthews ~ Assistant Editor

     Although most college students are not considered to be in a high-risk category for COVID-19, there are students who have gotten vaccinated or will soon.

     Ryan Paxton, senior, works at Virginia Baptist Hospital in the Mother Baby Ward and in the Intensive Care Nursery. She is a newborn hearing screening technician, so as a healthcare worker, she falls under phase 1b for the COVID-19 vaccination. However, she explained that “the COVID positive or suspected positive mothers remained isolated in a room, and I do not interact with them. So I had to wait until the vaccine was available for all Centra staff.”

     Paxton explained that it was important for her to get the vaccine. She said, “Birth is an incredible experience for mothers and the days after they spend in the Mother Baby ward or in the ICN, they deserve to have time to bond with their baby with as little stress as possible. With the tests that have to be run and the shift changes, mothers and babies come in contact with a variety of staff. These staff also come in contact with COVID patients during their rotations.” 

     She continued, “The last thing they need is to come in contact with a nurse/technician that is a carrier. We wear masks and wash our hands and use hand sanitizer before touching the mom or baby, but there is always a risk. It is even more important for me because I also go to the ICN as well. The babies can spend weeks there, and I cannot risk giving a baby with a compromised immune system COVID. Moms and babies deserve to have the best birth experience, and contracting COVID while also caring for a new baby is terrifying. I do not want anyone to have to go through that, so I have to take every precaution I can. Getting the vaccine is the best step.”

     Julia Melone, senior, is about to get the vaccine. “[I qualify now] because of my type 1 diabetes,” she said. “I am looking forward to feeling less of a fear about getting seriously ill if I were to come into contact with an infected person. Even more than that, I feel like I can relax a bit more. I know I still need to social distance and wear my mask, but it is like an extra layer of protection. I can just feel safer. And my parents can feel safer for me.” 

     Both Melone and Paxton discussed concerns over people not taking the virus seriously, and emphasized that having a vaccine does not mean that things can immediately go back to normal. 

     “I think a lot of people think that if they have a vaccine they don’t have to wear a mask or social distance, which is hypothetically true,” said Melone. “The key word is hypothetically. The masks are to prevent getting COVID and/or to prevent spreading it when you are asymptomatic. Theoretically you cannot do either if you cannot be infected. However, the vaccine only promises better outcomes, not perfect immunity.”

     Paxton further elaborated, “COVID will not go away with how a majority of the world has responded. Even in Lynchburg, people and other colleges are not taking the virus as seriously as we are. Vaccinating as many people as possible would allow for the death rate to decrease and for people to experience milder symptoms. With more mutations, it allows for the idea of COVID booster shots. Odds are, we are never going to get back to a world pre-COVID because of the way we have treated the virus. Even if we do, we have lost close to a half a million people and many more are experiencing permanent symptoms and damage to their bodies.” 

     Paxton insisted, “If we want to stop the spread, we have to get the vaccine if we are able. We also have to keep social distancing, wearing masks and staying home when possible.”

     Continuing, she said, “I am hoping to see a uniform vaccination procedure. With Centra, I had to wait three weeks before I could get through to schedule an appointment. While the vaccination itself was easy, getting the appointment was hard. I would like to see a much easier process on campus with a focus on the employees who come into contact with the most students first. We need to focus on those in our community who are at the highest risk of exposure and then work our way down. We also need to focus on alleviating fear or anxiety about getting the vaccine. By showing that it is an easy process and relatively painless, more people may be willing to get the vaccine.”

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