Campus, Coronavirus, News

BU community reflects on vaccination experiences thus far

vaccination center at boston university fitness and recreation center
Vaccination site at Boston University’s Fitness and Recreation Center. While members of the BU community who have received the vaccine have been generally satisfied with their vaccination experiences, many students, staff and faculty have not yet been deemed eligible. HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University’s vaccinated population continues to grow every day — despite most students not yet eligible to receive a vaccine in accordance with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health vaccine distribution plan.

Hannah Emily Landsberg, director of case management and contact tracing at BU Healthway, wrote in an email BU has fully vaccinated more than 1,200 people — a figure that does not include Phase-One students and employees vaccinated at the Boston Medical Center.

Those currently eligible to get the vaccine in the state are people over 60, those who have two or more specific medical conditions, K-12 educators, child care workers and people who live or work in low-income and affordable senior living facilities, among others, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s vaccine distribution plan.

“A growing number of staff fit into this criterion,” Landsberg wrote, “however, the vast number of students are not yet eligible.”

Camilla Atalla, a freshman in the College of Communication, said she feels comparatively “less paranoid” around campus after having received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Thursday.

“COVID is such a big thing around campus and I’m around all these people that I don’t necessarily know what their habits are,” Atalla said. “Whenever I wake up with a sore throat or something, I’m like ‘oh my god, COVID.’”

After getting the vaccine, Atalla said she no longer has the same reaction to minor physical symptoms that could be attributed to a range of illnesses.

“Now I’m a bit more okay,” she said. “Even though I only have the first dose, I know that my chances of getting [COVID-19] were pretty low to begin with. And even now, which is the first dose, it’s lower.”

Despite technically not being eligible for a vaccine, Atalla said she managed to receive the last of five leftover doses at a vaccine distribution center in North Carolina, where she’s from.

“I was the last person to be able to get one,” Atalla said. “When I went inside, the woman who was administering the vaccine was so nice to me. It was wonderful.”

The health care workers in the center had given her an appointment about three weeks from then, she said, but given that she would be back in Massachusetts by that time, she had to call and schedule a different appointment in the Commonwealth.

“Since I’m not technically eligible here yet, until two, three weeks from now,” Atalla said, “it’s not super easy to figure out.”

Michelle Amazeen, associate professor of mass communication, advertising and public relations in COM, said the exclusion of higher education teachers in the Massachusetts vaccination plan has left her “dumbfounded.”

“I can’t believe that college professors aren’t included, because they are educators too,” Amazeen said. “I don’t understand it, I don’t agree with it.”

Teaching a partially in-person class is a stressful task — especially when one is not vaccinated, she said.

“They are spread out and they are masked,” Amazeen said. “Nonetheless, there’s still that anxiety.”

Although social distancing and mask guidelines help ease that anxiety, she said they don’t account for moments when a student has a question and she must move closer to listen and respond.

“I have to walk over near them so that I can hear them,” Amazeen said. “But then there’s the anxiety of ‘oh, I can’t get too close to them because social distancing.’”

College of General Studies sophomore Talya Havivi said she feels “more secure” after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — but having heard of family friends who have contracted the virus between the first and second doses, she is still wary of infection.

“I definitely feel a little bit safer, but I think it’s all just a mindset thing,” Havivi said, “because until you get your second dose, it’s not 100 percent kicked in.”

Havivi said she was vaccinated at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College and was eligible because she is a child care worker and has a pre-existing condition.

She added the process was “pretty quick and easy,” taking roughly 45 minutes to an hour.

Most college students fall under Phase Three of the distribution plan, which makes vaccines available to the general public and is expected to launch April 19.

While it is unlikely that a majority of students will be vaccinated by the semester’s end, Landsberg wrote she hopes the state will offer BU more doses to vaccinate students and employees by this Fall.

“The higher percentage, the better chance we have at going back to the activities and social interactions we need in a safe way,” she wrote.

Paul Schneider, chair of COM’s Department of Film and Television, said “everything feels safer” after receiving his second shot of the Moderna vaccine Thursday, despite previously not being very concerned.

“I never really felt unsafe,” Schneider said. “Now, I feel very safe. It’s like I don’t even think about it.”

BU offered him the vaccine, Schneider said, as part of its vaccination program at the Fitness and Recreation Center.

He was able to get his second dose at BU because of his previous appointment, even after the state stopped offering vaccines to higher education institutions last month.

BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the administration is looking for “a sufficient percentage of the campus” to be vaccinated, which will likely be after the Spring semester has ended.

“The hopes are that all eligible members of the BU community take advantage of the opportunity to become vaccinated,” he said.

Riley noted he had received his first shot of the Moderna vaccine two weeks ago. He is due to get his second dose in mid-April.

Landsberg wrote she urges anyone eligible to get the vaccine to do so right away.

“Public health is currently in a race against time to administer vaccines,” she wrote, “before variants spread further and more variants of concern arise.”

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One Comment

  1. Hope BU is preparing to vaccinate everyone mid April when everyone is eligible with at least one vaccine / as that can transfer wherever students are going when semester ends and will save lives. Terriers should advocate for this to ensure BU is ready!