Augustana students have started receiving COVID-19 vaccines as rollouts continue to incorporate larger sections of the student body.
All Augustana students became eligible for vaccinations on April 5, when the state of South Dakota opened phase 2 of the vaccination process to anyone 16 or older. However, students who work on campus and people living in residence halls were able to begin vaccinations earlier.
According to Suzie O’Meara Hernes, the university’s COVID response coordinator, 31.62% of Augustana students are in the process of being vaccinated as of April 6, and 12.65% of students are considered fully vaccinated, meaning their last vaccine dose occurred at least 14 days before April 6.
Those percentages translate to 565 students currently in the vaccination process having received the first shot, 333 having received both shots, and 226 students being considered fully vaccinated.
These statistics depend on students self reporting their vaccination status, so she suspects the actual number of vaccinated students is likely higher.
The number of total students and employees on campus fluctuates as people come and go on campus frequently, so these statistics are not concrete.
“I think that our numbers are a lot lower than actuality because people have just not told us yet that they’re somewhere in the vaccination process,” said O’Meara Hernes.
O’Meara Hernes asks that students submit their vaccination status to the myAugie portal after they’ve been vaccinated so the university can enact proper protocol.
According to student submissions, about one fourth of students have received the Moderna vaccine, and three fourths have received Pfizer.
Augustana’s partnership with Sandford meant most students who qualified for vaccinations earlier than April 5 went to Sandford to be vaccinated. Sandford primarily distributes Pfizer vaccines.
Students who have already started the vaccination process seemed to be positive about the experience. None of the students interviewed experienced major side effects. The students interviewed all received the Pfizer vaccine.
Cal Irvine, a sophomore, got his first vaccination at Sandford right before spring break. He became qualified for vaccination through his employment at the Writing Center. The only side effect he reported was a sore arm.
“I had COVID in October, which provided me with a sense of security over the last few months regarding immunity; however, I am happy to know that my chances of getting it again and spreading it to those in high risk categories is even less,” Irvine said.
Cailey Scott, a sophomore, got her first vaccine at Avera after receiving an email that vaccinations were open to all students living in dorms. She said she had flu-like symptoms after receiving the shot but recovered quickly.
“The vaccine has made me feel safer living in our Petri dishes of dormitories,” Scott said. “I feel as though I have a personal, extra layer of protection to prevent myself from getting sick again. However, I also recognize that I am one of few who has gotten the vaccine, and I have remained cautious as to not get others sick.”
Logan Swanson, a senior, became eligible for vaccination because he is a substitute teacher. He received both Pfizer shots through Sandford. His only side effects were a sore arm and fatigue.
“I am ready for things to go back to normal,” said Swanson.
Next week, Lewis Drug will administering the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine to students and staff in the 2-in-1 room at the Morrison Commons. Vaccinations will be available between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday and from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m on Wednesday.
Anyone who wants to be vaccinated during this time must sign up by Monday, April 12 through an online application by Lewis Pharmacies.
“I’m very thankful for that option,” O’Meara Hernes, said. “It might give a different solution to some who don’t like shots, and if they can get the one and done, great.”
On-campus vaccines will be given out by Lewis drug pharmacists and employee health nurses. Augustana nursing students may also be involved in the distribution process, but this is still unclear.
While the vaccination process has been relatively easy for both Irvine and Scott, both expressed concerns that vaccine rollouts may give students a false sense of security.
Irvine said worried more students getting vaccinated will lead to less mask wearing and more large gatherings before Augustana reaches herd immunity and that irresponsible behavior could lead to another spike in COVID cases.
“I would hate for those who have gotten the vaccine to return to normal life, carry COVID-19 on their hands or clothing without knowing it and, then, transmit it to people who have not had the vaccine yet,” Scott said.
To those who are worried about getting vaccinated, Irvine said, “If you are suspicious of the vaccine, conduct research using published data sources and come to a personal conclusion on the safeness and effectiveness of the vaccine. I am sure you will find that it is fairly irrational to believe that not getting the vax is safer [or] smarter than getting it.”
O’Meara Hernes said she is hopeful that by this summer all Augustana students who want to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to.
“Everybody now has access to [the vaccines], and we have plenty of time for individuals to get either the two dose or the single dose vaccine and be done with both those by the time the semester ends,” said O’Meara Hernes.