Asa Danies, Campus Carrier staff writer
On Jan. 21, Berry administration first notified staff and faculty of plans to provide them COVID-19 vaccines. Since then, Berry continues to organize vaccine distribution but cannot finalize plans until it knows more.
“We are planning for availability of vaccines but we won’t be able to [put] logistics in place until we have confirmation we’re able to get it,” Debbie Heida, chief of staff, said. “We have a partner who we can work with when we’re ready for faculty and staff but we don’t have a date yet. The latest that we’ve heard is March or early April is probably the soonest that it would roll out.”
Currently, the state of Georgia is still in rollout of the 1A tier of vaccine distribution. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1A includes healthcare professionals and long-term care residents. 1B includes educators, as well as essential frontline workers, public service workers and people age 75 and over.
Berry administration released a campus-wide survey to faculty and staff, asking if they were planning to get the vaccine, Wayne Phipps, director of Human Resources said. They received just under 400 responses from faculty and staff members who would be interested in getting the vaccine, Phipps said. Staff and faculty are also able to communicate to the administration if they change their mind on the vaccine or if they have received it already. There are currently about 625 staff and faculty on campus.
Heida was pleased with the number of staff and faculty who said they would get the vaccine.
“The ability to vaccinate over the next several months will be really critical to the health of our community and I was encouraged by the number of faculty and staff who said they wanted the vaccine,” Heida said. “We needed to do this survey because we needed to at least get a number to be able to share but we hope that number will increase by the time that we can authorize it.”
At this time, however, it is too soon to say exactly when the vaccine may be rolled out.
“At this point it’s kind of wait and see what we can get our chance to be vaccinated as well,” Phipps said. “We have an idea of what that time frame is going to be like, but like everything else, once you start to get behind, that day could move, so it’s really just a matter of get ready and then wait.”
Chris Hall, associate professor of biology, explained that the current issues of rollout are related to the long process it takes the vaccine to reach the people that need it.
“Firstly, you’ve got this long chain of logistics that has to work,” Hall said. “You’ve got the manufacturer who has to produce it, get in the vials in the correct dosages. You can’t just fast forward that. And then, of course, you have to go from there to distribute it, but, right now, it’s being distributed in a way that no one’s quite understanding.”
Another issue Hall brings up is the novelty of having to distribute a vaccine on such a large scale in a short amount of time. Hall believes that this will lead to more effective distributions in the future.
“Now that we have seen this immediate need, I think the vaccine companies are going to be much more nimble in terms of if we see new strains or even new viruses entirely,” Hall said. “This was a learning experience and it showed us just how quickly science can respond when it needs to.”
The CDC still recommends that those who have had the vaccine continue to socially distance, wear masks, avoid large crowds and to follow other COVID-19 guidelines to prevent further spread.
David Bruce Conn, professor of biology, said that certain limitations of the vaccines have also played a role in rollout challenges.
“We have learned a new shortcoming, especially with the Pfizer, is that it is very sensitive, it has to be maintained with very low temperatures and part of the problem with the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine is that we’ve got to have ultra-low freezers to keep it at the temperature and not everybody has that,” Conn said.
Conn also explained that another difficulty is ensuring that everyone gets the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. This is troubled by people needing to find time to schedule the second appointment and having access to the second dose.
Hall said that a vaccine is going to be critical in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. A major benefit is that the vaccine teaches your body the immune response necessary to fight the COVID-19 virus.
“Vaccines are by far the biggest bang for your public health dollar,” Hall said. “The problem with drugs is you’ve got keep taking them to be protected. The beauty of our immune system is, if you teach it what to look for, when it sees it, it’ll be ready.”
The CDC recommends that people who have already gotten COVID-19 still get the vaccine, due to uncertainty of how well the natural immunity protects a person, though this uncertainty is also true for the vaccines themselves. Common side effects of the vaccine include fatigue, headaches, pain, swelling and fever. If one is unsure about whether they should take the vaccine, they should contact their physician with questions about the vaccine and potential side effects.
Hall explained that the minor side effects of getting the COVID-19 vaccine are a good sign that one’s immune system is working.
“If you get some swelling, some itching, maybe you feel like you’ve got a little bit of the flu or something, it tells you your immune system [is] responding, it tells you that it’s working because your immune system is what’s making you feel bad,” Hall said.
William Donnelly, associate professor of English, rhetoric and writing is glad that faculty and staff will be able to eventually get the vaccine.
“Any sort of teacher is automatically getting into contact with a whole bunch of different people, not just at the college level but any instructor, really,” Donnelly said.
Casey Dexter, associate professor of psychology, explained that education about the vaccine is going to be key in getting more people to take it.
“Try and educate yourself about the vaccine,” Dexter said. “We recognize there are a lot of valid reasons why people can question some of this, there are cultural, ethnic groups that have very valid reasons for questioning the medical industry that have historically been abused and mistreated and there a lot of people having valid conversations about this and then I think there’s a lot of people who are not thinking critically about the issue. People should engage with it seriously and talk amongst their peers about what is the best path forward for us to get back to normal and I think it’s a combination of masks, social distancing and vaccines.”
Conn also explained that a vaccine should not be understood as a cure-all and that preventative measures can prove just as effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19 and other diseases.
“The main thing is, vaccines are not the best way to avoid disease,” Conn said. “The best way to avoid disease is to do the things that fight the spread, either you’re not in contact with vectors of disease or doing stuff to keep your immune system strong enough so that when you do encounter the disease you’re able to fight it off.”
Conn said that getting healthy amounts of Vitamins D and C, Zinc, sleep, hydration and exercise are great ways to boost one’s immune system.
“The more fit you are, the better your circulatory system works, it more efficiently pumps blood, the stronger your immune system is,” Conn said. “Your immune system is incredibly powerful at resisting a lot of infections and fighting them off. Many of these people who get this COVID don’t even know they’ve got it, generally these are people who have very strong immune systems and usually it’s not because they’re born with that immune system, it’s because they have the right diet, they sleep [and] stay hydrated.”