By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
Baylor received 500 doses of the Janssen Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday morning, allowing students, faculty and staff on the Baylor waitlist to make appointments this week.
Medical Director of Baylor University Dr. Sharon Stern said they found out Monday they would be receiving the vaccines. Emails were sent to people in phase groups 1A and 1B who had filled out the Baylor COVID-19 vaccine interest form.
“We set up a vaccine clinic to run Wednesday and Thursday,” Stern said. “We’re able to stratify people by age, by how many medical conditions they may have … so that way we’re able to try to be as fair and equitable and make sure we’re targeting 1A and 1B groups.”
Stern said it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
“There is not any virus in the vaccine,” Stern said. “The way they make this vaccine, they use an inactivated virus called nano-virus that causes a common cold, but it’s killed so it can’t make you even have a cold, but they put the protein that is identified with the coronavirus on this other virus. It helps the body make immunity to that protein, but there is no virus in it.”
Easton, Penn., junior Cassie Nataro received her vaccine from Baylor on Wednesday.
“It was really quick, it was very easy,” Nataro said. “And the nurse, he gave me the shot, put a bandaid on and then I sat there for 15 minutes, I think just to monitor to make sure I didn’t have any sort of immediate reaction. And then I was free to go.”
Dr. Robert Best, an associate professor of voice and recruiting coordinator for the voice division within the School of Music, also received his vaccine on Wednesday.
“It was really well organized and well communicated ahead of time,” Best said. “It just seemed really easy to do. Baylor has, at least from my perspective, everything that’s regarding COVID-related, they’ve been very serious about this from the beginning. This communication and the rollout of the vaccine today was just another manifestation of that kind of professionalism.”
Stern said it’s important to get the vaccine when it’s available to everyone, even for those with no medical issues.
“A lot of college students feel like, ‘Well, I’m not going to get a bad case even if I get it,’ or ‘My friends have gotten it, and they’ve been fine,’ but you don’t ever know if you’re going to be one of the ones who either gets a serious case, or you may get a mild case, and then months later have almost like a chronic fatigue set in … so you don’t want to take a risk of that,” Stern said.
Stern also emphasized the need to get the vaccine for people in the college age range.
“The other reason to get the vaccine is kind of as a community service because young people, especially young people who drive and can go on their own to restaurants and bars and places like that, they are able to spread the virus if they get it unknowingly because so many times it doesn’t cause symptoms in young people,” Stern said. “And so, with the vaccination there, we’re cutting off those people from spreading the virus.”
The Janssen Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a lower efficacy rate than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but Stern said people should get whatever vaccine is made available to them.
“There are a couple of scientific explanations for why their efficacy rates look lower,” Stern said. “Partly, it has to do with the way they started out their studies. They were using a different dose, but I really feel strongly that it has good efficacy. It’s probably at least 70% effective, which is about twice as effective as a flu vaccine … The efficacies of the Moderna and Pfizer are pretty much unheard of in vaccines because they’re so high, and they’re made in a completely different way, but this vaccine is very good. It’s very effective.”
Stern said day 15 through 90 after Baylor faculty, staff and students are fully vaccinated, they do not have to participate in weekly testing. The Baylor Health Management team sent out an email on March 8 notifying faculty, staff and students who are fully vaccinated to fill out a COVID-19 testing exemption form. Faculty and staff have a separate exemption form from students.
“Once the 90-day period has expired, vaccinated faculty, staff and students will receive further instructions regarding resuming weekly testing,” the Baylor Health Management wrote in the email.
Nataro said she thinks anyone who can should get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“I think Baylor’s doing a great job with the vaccination rollout so far,” Nataro said. “I look forward to seeing how it’s gonna progress this semester.”