As of April 7, all students in North Carolina became eligible for vaccination. UNC Asheville officials provided students with the opportunity to get vaccinated at the student vaccine clinic in order to create a safer community for students and as a way to fight the pandemic.
Sonya Putnum, a registered and retired nurse and a volunteer at the vaccine clinic, discussed the vaccine.
“It’s drawn up to the correct dose, so in this case, it’s the Johnson & Johnson. So it’s half of an ML, so it’s .5 and then the vaccinators take these and puts them in the arm.”
Some symptoms that can be expected after receiving the vaccine are a sore arm, some people get flu-like symptoms, maybe a headache and aches in the body, but it really depends on the person. Everyone’s reaction is different but it is a sign of a good immune response and it only lasts a few days.
“Once everyone is vaccinated within two weeks after their vaccination they have their optimum protection. I got the two-dose one. The first dose was a sore arm and the second dose I had a headache all day long and didn’t feel like myself, but that was good because it was working and it is a good immune response,” Putnum said.
Along with the common side effects previously described, there are some severe side effects that aren’t as common, things that if one does experience, they should go to a hospital.
“People need to watch for symptoms such as trouble breathing, thick tongue, itchy throat, things like that. That’s a 911 call because you could be having an anaphylactic reaction,” Putnam said.
Putnum said the more people that get vaccinated, the safer everyone is because it prevents the spread of COVID-19. For the sake of the country getting back to normal is why she volunteered at the Reuter Center.
“Not only is it a good experience, I’m also applying to nursing school after I graduate, so I’m really enjoying having to register people and I think everyone should get the vaccine so the more people that get it, the better I feel for our future,” said Ariana Cohen, a student health ambassador and health and wellness major volunteering at the student clinic.
Cohen is considered a frontline worker and has been fully vaccinated for a few months now, having received the vaccine back in January. She’s been helping at the Reuter Center for a little over a month, including off-campus vaccination sites that she’s volunteered at as well.
“I think campus will be a lot safer because the more people that are able to get the vaccine as soon as possible, the quicker our immunity will be and the quicker we will be able to get back to normal,” Cohen said.
The COVID-19 vaccine also provides a sense of security. For example, Cohen’s family is now fully vaccinated this week, providing a huge relief for Cohen.
“It’s a really nice feeling knowing that my family won’t get severely sick and things will get back to normal and we can travel again and see our extended family who is outside of the country,” Cohen said.
Alexis Stout, a junior at UNCA, signed up for the vaccination program about three weeks ago and said it is a fairly quick and efficient process.
“I’m really glad they are offering it here because it makes it easier to get than trying to get it out somewhere like at Walgreens or something,” Stout said.
Stout compared the processes of getting the vaccine to getting the flu shot. The set up to receive the vaccine was very professional, the possible side effects were explained, receiving the shot took seconds and the wait after receiving the vaccine for precautionary measures was only 15 minutes.
“Everyone in here was really nice, super easy, I think you should get it if you can and from what I’ve heard they got a good amount of the Johnson and Johnson one and it’s good to know that I have gotten the vaccine especially before leaving campus for the summer,” Stout said.
Dr. Bill Haggard, vice chancellor for student affairs, expressed his excitement that UNCA students are able to get vaccinated and wanted to be there to show his support.
“We’ve been up and running since February 19 and given over 11,000 vaccinations, but when we had the opportunity to get the single dose Johnson & Johnson we really wanted to push that for our students and the timing lined up just at the right time that all students became eligible,” Haggard said.
Haggard also shared his understanding of the mistrust that people have pertaining to the vaccine and why some are skeptical about it. However he hopes that others come to see the success from the thousands of people that have received it.
“I think it’s very important for leaders to be public about getting their vaccination, so that students can build up the courage to come down and again for the sake of the community but for the sake of them too, we don’t want them to get sick, we want them to live in confidence,” Haggard said.
The benefits of the vaccine goes beyond physical health but also helps emotional well-being as this is just one step closer to a safer and healthier community because it is a relief knowing that one is protected.
“We want to get our campus back to this new normal where we can shake hands again and come together where we can be with each other. Students, just like other humans, need to be with other human beings, we need contact with people and it’s been a very stressful time for some, a very anxious time for some, a very lonely time for some, so getting the vaccination speeds up getting back to being with people again,” Haggard said.
Now that all students are able to get vaccinated, the student clinic days do not limit one to those particular dates because students can now sign up whenever they are ready. Haggard got his vaccine a few months ago and said after two weeks, he felt great because it reduces the anxiety of the current situation.
“It’s exciting I’m finally getting it out of the way. It’s like a huge burden off your shoulders because you don’t have to worry as much about it because it’s been taken care of,” said Gil Matos, a junior at UNCA.
Matos signed up for the COVID-19 vaccine about two weeks ago when the school sent out the initial sign-up email. He picked his time and described the rest of the process: he showed up at his appointment time, filled out some paperwork and was good to go.
“I feel good. I thought the shot was going to hurt more but it didn’t so that’s a plus and once you take it, not only are you helping yourself by building antibodies, but then also you’re protecting other people and minimizing the spread of it through contact and also from the people that don’t have the best immune system or someone that’s at high risk of getting it,” Matos said.
Matos felt nervous at first to get the vaccine but after seeing the process, he felt reassured that everything was going to be fine. He viewed the process like any other check up at the doctor. Plus, it was free. He recommended mentally preparing oneself before the shot. The shot only hurts a little bit but afterward you have the security of knowing that you got it and everything is going to be fine.
“It’s just a small step to get back to normal,” Matos said.