As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, people are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to get vaccinated. Two students at Huntington University share their thoughts on why they made the choice they did.
By Peyton Pitman, Editor-in-Chief
“I love my friends with all my heart, and it would really break my heart if I lost friendships over this,” said Courtney Budde, a senior studio arts major at Huntington University.
She is also one of many students on HU’s campus who’s decided to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite her reluctance to get the vaccine, she said she’s not surprised this virus turned into, as Budde puts it, “a big deal.” However, her distrust in the media has made it hard for her to listen to what the FDA and CDC has said about the pandemic since the beginning.
In December 2020, nearly a year after the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the U.S, Pfizer/BioNTech administered its first vaccine to a New York City ICU nurse. Since then, the number of vaccinated individuals continued to grow. And by July 31, 2021, more than 50 percent of the U.S population was vaccinated.
HU students were able to get the Moderna vaccine beginning in March of this year. According to Forbes, universities like Harvard, Duke, Williams, or Marquette have reported that more than 90 percent of their students have been vaccinated. But HU has not required students to report their vaccination status.
“When the vaccine first came out, I heard that people who are allergic to different foods were experiencing anaphylactic shocks,” said Budde, “and I’m allergic to shellfish, which I’ve heard is on the list.”
Her family is also skeptical of the vaccine, which plays a role in her conflicting feelings.
“My parents are like, ‘no! No COVID vaccine,’” said Budde. “My brother is highly skeptical of the vaccine too, and if I told you why, I would sound like a typical conservative republican, and in ways I agree with him.”
Senior film production major Linus Obenhaus has a different opinion. The choice, for him, was an easy one.
“I could either risk getting COVID or risk any side effects of the vaccine,” said Obenhaus. “Either way, there’s still risk involved, so I believe I made the right decision for me.”
Although he does not regret his decision, he did have some reservations about the aftermath of getting the vaccine.
“I was very anxious about getting it because of a bad reaction I had after a vaccine as a kid,” said Obenhaus. “But the nurses were kind and answered all my questions, which made me feel safe.”
Sharon McAleer, the communications specialist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email interview that it’s important with any vaccine to do your homework, ask questions, and listen for updates.
“You can be assured that CDC’s vaccine content is researched, written, and approved by subject-matter experts,” said McAleer. “[This includes] doctors, researchers, epidemiologists, and analysts.”
McAleer also said that, while the number of COVID cases do drop among the vaccinated, people who do test positive will likely see a decrease in their symptoms’ severity.
“Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant,” said McAleer. “When these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild.”
The steps to take after someone gets coronavirus will look different for everyone depending on the laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance, she said. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to vaccines or vaccine effectiveness. It also depends on if the person is fully, half-way, or not at all vaccinated.
The Chief Operations Officer at Huntington University, Russ Degitz, works directly with Ron Coffey, the vice president for student life, and Sherilyn Emberton, the president of the university to assist the COVID-19 tasks force on campus. The tasks force strategizes responses to mask protocols, quarantine lengths, travel regulations, and so on.
“If someone is identified as a close contact to somebody who tests positive on campus, and they are vaccinated, there’s not a requirement for quarantine like there is if someone isn’t vaccinated,” said Degitz. “If [the person who is vaccinated] tests positive, there is no difference in the 10-day isolation period.”
Huntington University does encourage their students, faculty, and staff members to get vaccinated, but as of right now, it is not mandatory, he said.
“We certainly have the ability and right to do that if we wanted,” said Degitz. “Even public institutions like Indiana University can do that as well. In fact, IU has required vaccines—they mandated that.”
But Courtney Budde said that mandatory vaccines would violate her freedom and should not be allowed.
“I think it’s stupid, and I think it’s a violation of our rights and privacy,” she said. “It’s their body, and if they don’t want to get the vaccine, they shouldn’t have to.”
Linus Obenhaus has a different perspective on freedom.
“I generally lean for more freedom in personal health choices,” said Obenhaus, “but COVID-19 is a pandemic that affects the health of entire communities.”
A mandated COVID vaccine is not as strange as people make it out to be, he said. This isn’t the first vaccine that has been required in certain places with the exemption of a few medical conditions.
“In most — if not all — states, vaccines for diseases like Polio and Chickenpox are required for children to go to school,” said Obenhaus. “I don’t see why COVID-19 should not be treated in the same way once a child-safe vaccine is developed, of course.”
For Courtney Budde, the risk right now still outweighs the benefits of getting vaccinated, but she said she’s not completely ruling it out.
“I’m waiting for about a year after some of my friends have gotten it to see how they’re doing,” said Budde. “If they’re still doing okay, I might reconsider.”
Obenhaus said he does not regret his ultimate decision to get the vaccine at all, saying, “I would do it again and again if I had to.”