Baylor health professionals affirm COVID-19 vaccine safety in effort to calm student doubts

People line up in their vehicles for COVID-19 vaccines at a mass vaccination site at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Travis, Hays, Caldwell and Bastrop counties collaborated on the event with a goal of vaccinating 10,000 people this weekend. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

By Erianne Lewis | Staff Writer

COVID-19 vaccine distribution is continuing to ramp up, and as the weeks go by, more and more people become eligible to get their shot. However, there are hesitancies from some about the safety or necessity of getting the vaccine.

December 2020 marked the first round of mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently “three vaccines [that] are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19.” They are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines.

Fort Worth sophomore Amanda Lastorino said she originally had doubts about the COVID-19 vaccines because of how rapidly they were produced, though she now feels confident in its safety.

“I actually talked to my microbiology professor, who got into microbiology because of the use of DNA and RNA in vaccines,” Lastorino said. “He explained how it worked, and I trust the science behind it. I trust that our government and doctors and scientists wouldn’t be pushing something if it really was dangerous for people to have.”

Gates, N.C., freshman Jamailah Riddick said she was also hesitant about getting the vaccine initially because of the experiences her friends had with the side effects.

“I’m a little nervous about some of the side effects,” Riddick said. “I’ve had friends that have gotten [the vaccine] — they’ve gotten over the side effects — and they’ve gotten headaches and fatigue and side effects like that. Nothing that worries me too much to the point of not getting it.”

These concerns and worries were not uncommon among people thinking about getting the vaccine. Dr. Sharon Stern, medical director for Baylor University health services, said the side effects are the immune system’s way of acknowledging the vaccine.

“​In most cases, side effects after vaccines happen because of the activation of the immune system. Having a sore arm, achiness, fatigue and even fever is not fun, but it shows us that your immune system is responding,” Stern wrote in an email.

Stern said it is of upmost importance that people get a vaccine because it is the way back to normalcy. Additionally, Stern said Baylor health services staff has been working intensely to get more vaccines for Baylor students, faculty and staff members.

“​Some people were concerned because these vaccines were produced and tested fairly rapidly; however, the process was already developed and we have loads of data showing the safety and efficacy of them. I highly recommend that everyone get one of these vaccines whenever eligible,” Stern wrote. ​”We have been working feverishly to get more vaccines from the state Department of Health Services and from a local vaccine hub. […] We are hopeful that we will be able to get weekly allocations of vaccine but it is completely dependent on supply.”

Lastorino said she scheduled an appointment to get the Pfizer vaccine through her local county.

“I know it’s not 100% perfect, and nothing really is, but no I don’t really [have any doubts about it],” Lastorino said. “What makes me more nervous is that there is a variance of COVID coming out, more so than the vaccine itself.”

Riddick said she ultimately must think about the safety of her family members as well as her own, above anything else.

“I have asthma, so getting COVID could be threatening to me, and I’m one of the people that are more at risk. I would just rather be safe,” Riddick said. “I also have younger family members and older family members that I see quite often when I go home, so not only for my safety but for them [as well].”

As of February 27, 2021, there were two COVID-19 vaccines that were undergoing clinical trials in the United States. Those vaccines are AstraZeneca and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines. As of now, it is uncertain when or if these vaccines will be approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.