Vaccination Nation

Nicole Yeager, Special Features Editor

As the novel coronavirus continues to sweep across the United States, an increasing air of anticipation surrounds the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Ever since the first known cases of novel coronavirus were identified in Wuhan, China in late 2019, vaccine developers across the globe have been working tirelessly to find a cure for this generation’s greatest disease. By November of last year, Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines had proven to be 90 percent effective and were subsequently approved for emergency use. In December, healthcare workers were the first group to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Next, the vaccine was given to elderly individuals, individuals with high-risk medical conditions, long-term care facility workers and some educators. 

One student who was able to get the vaccine early, Maya Wadhwa ’23, shared her experience and thoughts: “I was really privileged to be fully vaccinated before school started because I worked at a dentist office over break, and I was really excited to get it. I felt pretty sick after the second shot, but I still think it was worth it,” Wadhwa said.

Gianna Rubel ’22 also got her vaccine earlier as a result of having a connection where there were extra doses that were going to be thrown out. “I would rather it not go to waste and, since everyone needs to get vaccinated anyways, I thought it was definitely the right thing to do. I’ve had it for a while now but I am still super careful and follow all of the guidelines,” Rubel said. 

The rest of the general population, including the majority of students on the University’s campus, eagerly waited for their turn to get vaccinated. On Wednesday, March 31, the Pennsylvania government announced that vaccines would be available to all in category 1B, which includes all education workers and those living in congregate environments, beginning on April 5.


What, Where, & How

There are currently three different vaccines that are approved for use to provide immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—the virus which causes the disease COVID-19. Since there was already an established body of knowledge surrounding similar SARS diseases, research for all vaccines were able to move at a fast pace right from the start. All three current vaccines have gone through Phase I and II trials as well as Phase III development; they are all approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved by the FDA, on Dec. 11, 2020. The Pfizer vaccine is a mRNA vaccine, meaning it uses a copy of a messenger RNA – a type of genetic material which the immune system can later use to identify the presence of the virus. Individuals who receive this vaccine will be subject to two doses administered via intramuscular injection, spaced three weeks apart. Potential side effects include pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you got the shot as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. 

The Moderna vaccine was approved by the FDA for emergency use shortly after Pfizer on Dec. 18, 2020. Moderna is also an mRNA vaccine manufactured by ModernaTX, Inc. This vaccine is also administered through injection into the muscle of the upper arm, with two doses 28 days (one month) apart. Potential side effects are similar to Pfizer’s. Currently, the Lewisburg Weis, along with all other Weis stores in Pennsylvania, offer the Moderna vaccine. Appointments can be made on their website. 

The third vaccine to be approved by the FDA to prevent COVID-19 is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals of Johnson & Johnson. Unlike the other two, this vaccine is a viral vector type, meaning it uses a modified version of a different virus as a vector to deliver instructions to cells. Those who receive this vaccine will receive one dose in the form of a shot also in the muscle of the upper arm. Potential side effects are comparable to the mRNA-based vaccines. 

Evangelical Hospital, which is only a 10-minute drive from campus, is now taking appointments for all eligible individuals in categories 1A and 1B. Information on how to make an appointment can be found on the COVID-19 page on their website. 

Category 1B

The rest of the general population, including the majority of students on the University’s campus, eagerly wait for their turn to get vaccinated. On Wednesday, Mar. 31, the Pennsylvania government announced that vaccines would be available to all in category 1B, which includes all education workers and those living in congregate environments, beginning on April 5. University President John Bravman sent an email to the student body sharing this news as well as the information that larger institutions, namely Evangelical Hospital and the Lewisburg Weis, are now listed as local providers. Bravman ended his message by reminding Bucknellians that “the pandemic remains a serious threat” and to “remain vigilant” in our actions going forward. 

One student, Renne Venico ’22, shares his experience with vaccination: “Finding a vaccine appointment in the beginning was a little challenging, but it’s really nice that vaccine supplies and appointments are becoming so available now. When I was talking to the pharmacist who administered my first Moderna dose, she said that everyone in the area has already gotten their vaccine or doesn’t want it, so people are coming from all over the central Pennsylvania region to get them.”

It is important to acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and it is equally important to be conscientious about all the groups of people who need it as you think about scheduling your own appointment. 

“I am happy to say I got vaccinated last week and I’m pretty impressed by the distribution of the vaccine so far. I think it’s a good step in the right direction, yet I do wonder how white privilege and socioeconomic status or any other biasing factors are playing or will play into the distribution of the vaccine,”  Tabitha Chilton ’22 said.

The New, New Normal

Looking forward to next year, it is reasonable to assume that the University will require students, professors and faculty to be vaccinated before returning to campus — assuming that the FDA will approve the vaccines for general use, and that it will be available to all students either through a University-sponsored program or otherwise. 

“It sounds like more and more people are getting vaccinated on campus, which I am very excited about; it makes me very hopeful for the rest of the semester and next year,” Wadhwa said.  “I am happy that Bucknell is being so proactive about the vaccines, I encourage everyone to get it!”

“I would encourage anyone and everyone to get their vaccine as soon as they can,” Venico said.

Looking forward, Rubel is “really hopeful that everyone on campus will be able to get it so that we can return to some sense of normalcy!” 

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