Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for the BYU–Hawaii ohana has begun. While some may feel skeptical, or even afraid, President John S.K. Kauwe III and the faculty responsible for health and safety at BYUH, have reached out to reassure those who may have doubts.
President Kauwe said in BYUH’s Q&A video about the vaccine, that not only is the COVID-19 vaccine safe, but recipients of the vaccine are 90 to 95 percent less likely to become infected with COVID-19. In those who may still become infected, the illness will be much less severe, he said.
“This is something to be excited about,” said Jake Bateman of Campus Safety & Security. “If you get the opportunity to be vaccinated, you should. … It’s not a pleasant experience, but the sooner we can get the vaccine rolled out, the sooner we can return to normal life. It’s a golden opportunity and something you should be excited for.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 vaccine has already undergone many tests and trials to ensure its safety. The CDC said the vaccine was tested on people with medical conditions and those of various ages, sexes, ethnicities and races. In the rare event of a dangerous reaction to the vaccine, such as an allergic reaction to one of its ingredients, the CDC has a system in place to receive reports and monitor these incidents.
“Vaccines help our bodies develop antibodies without being exposed to the actual virus and risking illness,” President Kauwe explained in the video. “All vaccines help the body create a supply of memory T cells that will remember how to fight that virus in the future. Researchers have worked diligently to develop a vaccine that will prevent further spread of [COVID-19].”
President Kauwe directly addressed concerns about the vaccination. “You take medicine to alleviate [post-vaccination] symptoms,” he said. “It is important to know that these symptoms mean that your body is doing exactly what it needs to do. … Please consult your physician about getting vaccinated when that opportunity is available to you.”
The CDC says, if you’ve already had COVID-19, you can and should still get the vaccine. Pregnant and nursing mothers are not only safe to receive the vaccine, but are part of the CDC’s recommended groups to be vaccinated first.
Eugenia Soliai, campus Safety and Risk manager at Campus Safety & Security, said, “Health Services made it so that we got a certain amount from Kahuku Hospitals … to vaccinate first responders on campus.”
Bateman explained, “We got vaccinated at Kahuku. It’s really straightforward and very simple.
“You walk in and show the QR code. … Since I’m not a patient of theirs, I quickly registered and got down some health history. They sit you down, put [the vaccine] in your arm … [and wait] for 15 minutes to make sure you don’t have any reactions. … It took 30 minutes.
“It’s intimidating taking a vaccine at this point in the pandemic,” Bateman said. But he said the healthcare workers followed up with how he was feeling after he received the vaccine.
“For the first week after you get it, you track symptoms on your phone: … Are you in pain, what symptoms do you have, are you missing work,” Bateman shared. “They really gather data on it.”
Soliai said about talking to the medical staff at Kahuku Hospital, “They were pretty good and upfront with me. I sat with Dr. Hughes. He’s the one who’s spearheading this project. ... I was apprehensive. It’s brand new, hasn’t been out there for very long. Lots of people are apprehensive.”
Soliai described her post-vaccination symptoms. “It’s just a normal sore arm, maybe some achiness and itchiness.” She described symptoms that are common to any vaccination.
“It hurt about as much as the [tetanus] shot,” Bateman said.
Soliai and Bateman both received their shots two weeks ago, and by this point are reporting no symptoms whatsoever. Neither said they missed work.
The COVID-19 vaccine is a two-series shot, meaning Soliai and Bateman will have to return to receive their second dose in the coming weeks, they explained.
“I’m a little bit apprehensive, but I want to get [the second dose],” Bateman said. “I’ve heard the second shot is the one that might make you feel a little sick. It’s always going to depend on the person and all of that.
“From my personal history of vaccines, I hate needles. Needles hate me. … I’m not excited for that aspect. But I am excited about getting vaccinated. I don’t have to worry about getting COVID.”
Soliai said she has heard a lot of information about the COVID-19 vaccine. “It affects everyone differently. … It’s a good thing to have it. We probably won’t get COVID down the road. That’s the purpose of getting vaccinated. We can help others. We’ll still have to keep the same protocols of wearing masks and keeping distance.”
“It’s just the best practices,” Bateman said. “Just because you get vaccinated, doesn’t mean the pandemic is over yet.”
Soliai said, “If you don’t wear a mask, the person next to you doesn’t know you were vaccinated. If you have secondary conditions, talk to your doctor first.”
The CDC said the sooner as many people as possible get vaccinated, the sooner herd immunity can be achieved. In the meantime, receiving a vaccine will reduce individual risk.
The CDC does not recommend trying to gain natural immunity by acquiring a COVID-19 infection. The risks of the infection causing serious illness, or being passed on to someone else are too high, it explains. Additionally, it is unclear if COVID-19 survivors are able to get reinfected.