Almost a year after the University of Connecticut shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, some students have begun to receive the vaccine for the virus.
Certain students are eligible to receive the vaccine through UConn because of their degree program. For example, Becca Vales is an eighth-semester pharmacy student who received the vaccine to do a required rotation in a hospital setting.
“UConn contacted me via email to let me know I was eligible for the vaccine, and I created an appointment through MyChart,” Vales said. “Fortunately, I did not have to experience any crazy wait times or issues with signing up. The vaccination area at UConn Health was well-managed and the actual shot took less than 10 seconds.”
While the process of getting the vaccine was easy, Vales said there were some side effects.
“My first dose of Moderna was on January 12th. My arm was very sore and I was extremely tired, but I felt better about a day later,” Vales said “My second dose was on February 5th and my reaction to this was worse. My arm was extremely sore with pain at the injection site, I was very lethargic, had a fever and severe body aches. It lasted about a full weekend.”
Even though Vales experienced side effects, she does not regret getting the vaccine.
“Despite the side effects, I would 100% do it over again and recommend that anyone who is eligible for the vaccine takes that opportunity to get it,” Vales said.
Hannah McCarthy is also an eighth-semester pharmacy major. McCarthy got both doses of the Moderna vaccine in December as a pharmacy intern at a hospital. McCarthy experienced only mild side effects. Now, McCarthy works as an immunizer at a hospital in Massachusetts, and says the vaccine clinics have been running smoothly.
“People will come in, register and verify their identity and eligibility, and then receive their vaccine. After that, they wait for 15-30 minutes to be sure that they do not experience any acute reactions. The biggest challenge I have seen from patients is navigating the online registration systems,” McCarthy said.
Colin Daniels, an eighth-semester communications and Spanish double major, is a firefighter and EMT. At time of publishing, Daniels has received one dose of the Moderna vaccine, and will receive the second dose next week. Daniels received the vaccine in Connecticut.
“Through my Fire Department, I was given a link to make an account on the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) website. I made my account and was able to search for available appointments at various vaccination locations in the area,” Daniels said.
From there, Daniels went to Connecticut Children’s Hospital, and a nurse administered the first dose of the vaccine. Daniels said the process was “painless”, and described only soreness in the area where he got the shot as a side effect.
Daniels also expressed optimism about the timeline for the vaccine.
“In terms of when vaccines will be available to all Americans, it’s sooner than I expected. President Biden has worked to purchase 200 million more vaccines, so I think the vaccine will be available to the public pretty soon,” Daniels said.
At time of publishing, 40.3 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the United States, at a pace of around 1.6 million doses administered every day. Approximately 14% of people in Connecticut have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Vaccine rollout plans vary by state. Connecticut is currently in Phase 1B of vaccine rollout, which means healthcare providers, individuals 65 and older and those who live in congregate settings such as homeless shelters are eligible.
Sixth-semester molecular and cell biology major Brian Fox reported having several side effects after getting the vaccine in January. Fox has both doses of the Moderna vaccine.
“The first dose gave me pretty severe side effects about 12 hours after getting the shot — chills, myalgia, fever, headache. These symptoms lasted for a full day. The second dose was ironically less severe, and likewise lasted for about a day,” Fox said.
However, Fox said the symptoms did not last.
“Now, it’s been 3 weeks following my second dose. I feel great and have tested negative each week,” Fox said.
Emily Fong, an eighth-semester allied health sciences major, received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Fong is a certified nursing assistant who works in a long-term care facility. Despite accounting for less than 1% of the US population, long-term care residents make up over a third of US COVID-19 deaths.
“I’ve been hands-on with COVID-positive senior citizens since day one, so I was able to get the vaccine as soon as they began vaccinating residents in nursing homes,” Fong said.
Fong got the vaccine at a Walgreens in Massachusetts. She reported soreness in the arm after the first dose, but no symptoms after the second dose. Fong noted a trend of hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I understand how people might doubt the vaccine because they ‘don’t know what’s in it’, but the people saying this are the same people who cannot name the ingredients of aspirin or birth control, either,” said Fong.
“As a layperson who has done my research and seen the effects of COVID-19 firsthand, I can say that I fully support the science behind the vaccine and encourage that you get it if you have the opportunity.”