Inoculation is in the Air at SLU

COVID-19 has been a long ride, one where it often seems the closer we get to the end, the more time we realize we have left. Thankfully, the more time spent in this never-ending descent into collective lunacy means the closer we get to vaccinations, and some SLU students haven’t had to wait so long.

One of those students is Ashley Keller, a sophomore studying nursing who received the Pfizer vaccine in January and completed her second dose in mid-February. Aside from a slight arm soreness (an experience everyone interviewed reported), Keller says the main response she had to this vaccine was an emotional one. “I was very excited and happy as well as slightly nervous. It is just exciting and nerve wracking to be one of the first to receive this vaccine and knowing that we are on the way back to normalcy.”

This “normalcy” Keller is alluding to could be sooner than we think, as Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted that April will be an “open season” for vaccinations, meaning that any adult will be able to get vaccinated. Helen Ratcliff, a freshman studying communication sciences and disorders and Spanish, received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine after working at a summer camp for people with disabilities. She is optimistic. “Vaccine rollout seems to be going more smoothly with the new administration. My vaccine came after my mother’s second dose, my grandmother’s first and a month after my aunt was fully vaccinated. It seems to be much more commonplace, but I think having cautious optimism is the best mindset to have.”

Still, once these students are fully vaccinated, the burden of self-isolation will be lifted, as recent updates from the CDC say fully vaccinated individuals will no longer have to quarantine if exposed to the virus. Senior Sydney Compton, a senior studying social work and women’s and gender studies, is halfway through her Moderna vaccine and is looking forward to that reality. She qualified due to her work with the unhoused community and connections with the Springfield, Illinois sheriff’s department. The idea of non-isolation to her is refreshing. “Knowing I won’t have to self-isolate does give me some relief. I had to isolate back in September for two weeks and it was really draining not to be able to go out, do my job, or see others. It gives me some relief but I also know I will be as cautious as possible not to expose myself or others to the virus.” 

Some have expressed concerns on whether or not taking this vaccine is even a good idea, often citing its rapid development as a reason. Qualified for his work as an outreacher and work with the unhoused community, Liam John, a sophomore studying public health and management, who completed the Pfizer vaccine in February, sees the apprehension but for different reasons. “I think it is justified to consider not taking it while others that need it more still haven’t. This is totally reasonable.” Still, John suggests taking it regardless. “Hospitals are resorting to throwing away vaccines due to the extras at the end of the day… it may go to waste if you don’t take it. So might as well take it and continue to advocate that they need to make shots more accessible.” Ratcliff points out a different concern. “I think marginalized communities who have been hurt by the medical field have justified skepticism, but as for anti-vaxxers and other people who think they are being microchipped, I don’t believe they have reason to protest.”

For now, inoculated students are just as excited as everyone else for the vaccine rollouts, each with their own special excitements. “When I return home,” Ratcliff says, “every member of my family who has been fully vaccinated is going to have a dinner party and I am looking forward to that a whole lot.”

Another dream is one that Keller and John share. “I also just want to sit in a coffee shop once again,” she says. “I understand we still need the masks,” John says, “but sitting, doing homework or having coffee dates in an actual coffee shop with actual cups and not reusable ones… superb.” For Compton, it’s the simple pleasures of companionship she is looking forward to. “Collective joy! We haven’t been able to celebrate in any collective joy this year, no sporting events, concerts, election celebrations, nothing! I am just excited to be in spaces that people can share together.”