Summer looming, vaccines booming

A COVID-19 vaccination card is displayed at the Banning Recreation Center Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Wilmington, Calif. The site switched from its original plan to use the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 to the Pfizer vaccine. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

As students gear up to leave college campuses for their summer destinations, the American College Health Association is calling on colleges to urge students to get a COVID-19 vaccination before the end of the
spring semester.

Baylor referred to the ACHA suggestion in an email last week, saying that students should schedule a vaccine appointment before leaving for the summer. Though students are not required to be vaccinated for the fall 2021 semester, Baylor strongly encourages it, they said.

Dr. Michael Muehlenbein, professor and chair of anthropology and also a member of Baylor’s COVID-19 task force, said he acknowledges that students may be reluctant to get the vaccine during finals because of the possible side effects. However, it’s about more than that, he said.

“Despite the fact that we will not require vaccination for the fall semester, it is still highly recommended, and you’re not just doing it for yourself. You’re doing it for everybody around you,” Muehlenbein said. “If we want to get normality, which implies things like no social distancing and no masking, it relies on a certain percentage of people. Again, I cannot commit to a particular number, but it relies on us as a community taking a communal approach and accepting vaccination as the best strategy to mitigate all
of this.”

Baylor has provided doses for free through Baylor Health Service. They’re readily available on campus, he said as another point in favor of getting a shot.

“Why not take advantage of the free vaccine when it is so easily available here on campus? Especially with the Janssen, which is a single shot, that we have approval now for the FDA to use,” Muehlenbein said. “The majority of cases for this virus have been and will materialize as asymptomatic, and so just because you think you don’t have it or never had it is not a very good reason not to get vaccinated.”

Dr. Sharon Stern, Baylor Health Services medical director, said the readiness of vaccines now allows a second dose to most likely be found wherever students will be for the summer should they get their first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines while they’re still on campus.

“It is good to get people started on the vaccination, and Pfizer is stating it has fairly good protection even with the first dose, it’s for summer vacations and jobs,” Stern said. “The fact that the vaccine is so readily available means that most people will be able to get the second shot in their home communities.”

Additionally, for herd immunity, Muehlenbein said if we rely on immunity from having gotten sick with COVID-19, it will cost lives. Whereas the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has caused only two reported deaths out of millions of doses, not to mention zero deaths from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“So, this is the by far the safest and most effective way of reaching that herd immunity,” he said. “But my point is that we do not know what level that is. Is it between 70% and 90%? It’s somewhere around there, we simply don’t know. It’s a moving target.”

Everyone 16 years old and up is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in every state
now, so college students should all be eligible to receive one.