Last Tuesday, April 13, the Allegheny College Health Agency announced that all students would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, earlier than the previous date of April 19.
According to the email, the decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Health was made in part with college students in mind, to allow enough time for students to receive their second doses before returning home for summer break.
The college is partnering with the Meadville Medical Center to provide doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Allegheny students. Students can sign up for doses on the Meadville Medical Center website.
The effort to mass-vaccinate the student population has included more than just making the vaccines available. On Monday, ACHA hosted a Q&A session moderated by Dr. Gabrielle Morrow with already-vaccinated students, faculty, staff and parents about their vaccine experiences and why they chose to get vaccinated. Morrow began by introducing some of the benefits of getting the vaccine.
“Next year, if you get vaccinated, you do not have a risk of dying of COVID-19,” Morrow said. “You can’t hurt others by transmitting it to other people. You don’t have to get tested as often. Very short campus quarantine, you can travel. The coaches are asking if they can take students on trips. Sure. Go. You don’t have to quarantine or get a test when you come back.”
This message — “get the vaccine” — was overwhelmingly repeated by the other panelists. While some noted minor side effects, it wasn’t universal, and Morrow emphasized that such side effects were not a cause for concern.
“Those (side effects) aren’t unsafe,” Morrow said. “You know those days when you’re going along, you’re feeling good, and then you get up to go to the gym but you feel like garbage? And you’re like, ‘I’m not doing this today, this isn’t my day.’ Those are the days when you’re probably fighting something the way you are when you get the vaccine but you’re okay, your body knows what to do.”
Ishita Sinha Roy, professor of communication, film and theatre, emphasized that what you hear about the vaccine is not necessarily what you’ll get.
“Everyone has their own experience, and that’s also important to know because you’ll hear a lot of rumors and hearsay, like you do about the senior comp,” Sinha Roy said. “But there are people who really enjoy the senior comp and then there are people who just don’t, for a variety of reasons. It’s the same with the vaccine. I have a 78-year-old mother who has a lot of complicated health conditions; she and I prepared for this like a vacation. We had Gatorade in the fridge. We had chilled-gel eye pads. We were prepared to be in bed, and the only thing that happened was each of us had a slightly sore arm.”
Rich Nagy, head coach of the football team, noted that his players’ personal choices would affect the entire team.
“Everybody has their individual beliefs, I get that, but I just know that it’s going to be easier for us to move forward as a team if we’re all vaccinated,” Nagy said.
Also speaking at the forum was Noah Tart, ’22, the Allegheny Student Government president-elect. He contended that the vaccine was the beginning of the end for COVID-19 on campus.
“This is our hope,” Tart said. “It’s hope for community, for a reunion of socialization, for activities we once took for granted, and returning back to what was ‘Allegheny normal.’ Seeing people without masks on, going back to seeing someone smile when they look at you rather than just squinting their eyes through a mask, which doesn’t really count in my book.”
Sarah Lucas, ’21, a captain for the track and field team, didn’t speak at the forum, but her reaction was predictably loaded with side effects.
“I have a history of not reacting well to vaccinations, just like general symptoms that they normally give you on a list and you’re like, ‘ah it’s not going to happen,’ — that normally happens to me,” Lucas said. “After the first dose, I was just fatigued, but not extremely. I was able to go to my track meet two days later and still race.”
The second dose, however, left Lucas bedridden for a day.
“The night after, so like 12 hours after, I had a fever of 103, I had horrible chills and my friends were all like, ‘Haha, Sarah feels bad,’” Lucas said. “But it was fine. Like 12 hours after that I was just fatigued and tired and achy. Then again I ran a track meet on the Saturday after, (and) it went fine. So yeah, brief symptoms.”
As an athlete, Lucas didn’t feel pressured to get the vaccine and does not see it as unreasonable for students to be expected to have it.
“There are so many vaccines we have to get prior to entering kindergarten and prior to entering college and this is just another one of those vaccines,” Lucas said.
Lucas encouraged everyone who was able to get the shot for the good of the whole community.
“I think protecting the people around you is really important,” Lucas said. “Unless you do have certain religious beliefs where you don’t feel like you can get this, I think it should be highly supported and maybe even required.”
Vaccinations are held at the old Peebles building at 18910 Park Avenue Plaza in Meadville. For students who are unable to drive themselves, a shuttle is available on Wednesdays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The shuttle will depart from the Samuel Lord Gate at the end of the Brooks Walk every half hour.
For any questions about the vaccine or information about exemptions, contact ACHA by emailing [email protected]