Nine students and two professors have spent the semester conveying to others the power of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

By Melissa Farthing, Copy Editor 

This past summer, Huntington professors Jayme Dee and Andrew Hoffman were awarded a grant through the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) to create a cohort of students to promote vaccination against COVID-19. They recruited nine Huntington students (eight undergraduates at the main campus and one graduate student at the Fort Wayne campus) to become ambassadors. The title of the larger initiative is Faith in the Vaccine. 

“I was interested in working with this initiative for several reasons,” Hoffman stated. “First, I believe that the vaccine is an important tool in fighting COVID-19. Second, a major part of deciding whether or not to get vaccinated comes down to probabilities. There are no certainties with regards to COVID, but it is possible to mathematically model the risks and benefits. As someone who uses and teaches statistics, I appreciate this very concrete application of those ideas.”

IFYC recognizes the vital role that communities of faith play in vaccine uptake, so they explicitly sought to partner with Evangelical Christian Colleges and Universities. However, they also partnered with secular schools, and ultimately over 100 higher education institutions across the country had cohorts promoting the vaccine. The ambassadors at Huntington promoted the vaccine through athletic teams, social media, a partnership with the Allen County Public Library, the vaccination clinic, and other opportunities.

I was lucky enough to be one of the nine selected ambassadors for Huntington’s chapter of the Faith in the Vaccine program. When I received an email back in the spring about the chance to partner with a company pushing to get people vaccinated, I was sold. I saw the opportunity as a way to do something beneficial for my community and the world at large. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and significantly decrease your chances of becoming seriously ill. Despite this, many eligible people still refuse the vaccine. If I could persuade even one person to get the vaccine by teaming up with IFYC, I would consider my endeavors victorious.

One of the main ways Huntington’s vaccine ambassadors encouraged vaccination was by getting involved with the vaccine clinic hosted on-campus in mid-September. Students volunteered physically at the clinic and hung posters around campus to inform students of the clinic’s time and location. 

Recently, the vaccine program embarked on another adventure. Professors Dee and Hoffman composed a study regarding vaccination status and sent it out to 92 HU faculty members. About half of those who received the survey (50 participants) responded. Of those 50 faculty members, a whopping 92% (46/50) answered that they had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Most faculty members (66% or 33/50) encouraged students to get vaccinated. An interesting tidbit: NONE of the survey participants advised that students avoid the vaccine. 

After finishing the survey, faculty were also asked to leave any comments regarding the vaccine if they wished. Here are just a few of the anonymous comments written:

“The benefits [of getting vaccinated] outweigh the risk…Like other vaccinations in our history, it can help protect ourselves and others against a debilitating and life-threatening disease.”

“Being vaccinated is a way for us to help make our families, our communities, and our world healthier and safer.”

“I was fully vaccinated when I got a breakthrough case of COVID-19. Because I had the vaccine, I experienced very mild symptoms. Had I not been vaccinated, I believe my age and health conditions would likely have resulted in a lower respiratory infection and invasive treatments including hospitalization and use of a ventilator.”

“When researching whether to get the vaccine, please go to credible sources and stay away from conspiracy theories.”

“This type of vaccine (mRNA) has been researched for decades and was proven effective in trials. Having the technology available from previous research trials for other viruses (rabies, influenza, etc.) made the development of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 that much quicker. This vaccine was highly researched and not rushed along as some would have others believe.”

“Getting it is a way of loving your grandma.”

“It’s safe. It’s not bullet-proof…but no vaccine is. But it doesn’t hurt you, and it can reduce your risk of getting COVID, reduce your risk of getting a serious case of it, and reduce your risk of spreading it to others. All in all, it’s a great deal.”

“Getting vaccinated is a way for us to actively following [sic] Jesus Christ’s example of love and compassion for each other. It is safe and will give you a greater sense of safety.”

The overall consensus is clear: Huntington’s faculty believes in the power of vaccination against COVID-19. These results were very exciting and proof that our outreach has been effective thus far. I’m hopeful that vaccine-hesitant students may change their minds knowing that their favorite professor or faculty member has received “the jab.” 

With the holidays approaching and COVID-19 cases continuing to fluctuate, let’s all do our part to protect ourselves and others. Get vaccinated!