As Duke students await their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, they have lingering questions about access and acceptance.
Experts predict that vaccines will be available to college students between the months of May and July. Duke still has around 14,000 employees left to vaccinate in the first and second phase of their distribution plan, and another 50,000 from the Durham community on a waiting list for a shot.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that approximately 60% of Americans would “definitely” or “probably” get a vaccine, while 39% are leaning towards skipping the shots. A similar survey of students at Eastern Connecticut State University determined that around 50% of them would want to get vaccinated, while the other half are unsure.
Although there has not been a comprehensive survey of Duke students, several told The Chronicle that they are excited to get the shot.
Sophomore Jeremy Orriss is back in Durham and looking forward to getting vaccinated after spending last semester at home in California.
“I stayed at home last semester mainly because of the uncertainty,” Orriss explained. “Not just [because of] COVID, but also about what the Duke semester would look like. The only thoughts I’ve had about the vaccine are that I’m getting it. I trust the medical professionals, and they all say it’s safe and effective, so I believe them.”
Fellow sophomore Isabella Coogan, on the other hand, is more focused on the safety of those who already have pre-existing medical conditions and are looking to get vaccinated.
“My sister has an autoimmune disorder, and she’s a nurse, so she was worried about getting [vaccinated],” Coogan said. “She ended up getting it because she figured it was better than getting COVID, and she was fine. It’s just different for a lot of people with autoimmune disorders. I personally can’t wait to get myself some COVID vaccine.”
Junior Ishaan Kumar is co-instructing a house course this semester called “Vaccines, Explained,” which aims to promote conversations about vaccine equity and other public health issues.
“As college students, we’re a fairly privileged group, to the point where I’ve seen memes and TikToks about the vaccine,” Kumar said. “The argument that ‘it’s just a meme’ doesn’t work for me; these memes implicitly reinforce the belief that the vaccine isn’t safe, and for the segment of the population that’s on the fence about the vaccine and aren’t able to access research, these can be fairly powerful guiding ideas to spread.”
Most importantly, Kumar wishes that his students and the Duke community as a whole will continue to be safe and responsible even after getting vaccinated.
“Making multiple COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year is an incredible feat of science, but we’re only halfway there,” Kumar explained. “We have to convince people that it’s safe and effective.”
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Gautam Sirdeshmukh is a Trinity senior and a staff reporter for the news department. He was previously the health & science news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.