On March 15, Oklahoma Christian University partnered with Total Wellness to offer students, faculty and staff the Moderna vaccine on campus. However, many students are still skeptical about getting vaccinated. In response to student concerns about the vaccine, the campus provided a Vaccine Q&A event with Jeff McCormack, the COVID-19 campus readiness team chair.
According to Kym Langford, Oklahoma Christian’s COVID-19 clinical officer, a total of 704 students, faculty and staff received the vaccine. However, the exact number of students in this statistic is not clear.
Senior Julie Pekrul said she decided not to take the vaccine because of the short amount of time the vaccine has been around.
“I am not willing to be part of a medical trial,” Pekrul said. “Side effects, especially the long-term ones, will not be known for years to come.”
Senior Brianna Concienne, part of the Oklahoma Christian nursing program, said she decided not to take the vaccine because of her asthma condition.
“I just decided not to do it because I have asthma,” Concienne said. “From being in the hospital I see a lot of repercussions of getting the vaccine, and if you have some sort of comorbidity, whether that is obesity or asthma, your chances of having poor outcomes from getting the vaccine are higher than normal.”
Concienne said the lack of information on long-term effects has also influenced her decision, but it could change over time.
“They just do not know a lot about the vaccine in general,” Concienne said. “I would like to see the long-term effects of it. … I am always open to discussion and facts that come out about it. I am sure it will change over time, but right now I will stick with what I know.”
Pekrul said some other reasons she chose not to take the vaccine is because of her high recovery rate and potential fertility problems.
“Since I already have about the highest recovery rate possible, over 99%, if I get the virus then I really do not need an experimental vaccine,” Pekrul said.
Pekrul said because there is legal immunity for companies, it could mean they are not as worried or careful as they should be.
“People cannot go back and sue the companies in a few years for what may be lifelong complications they will then experience,” Pekrul said. “I just want things to be done in the right way, timing, and process.”
Concienne said she worked on the Monday clinical and gave students vaccine shots. She said she is not against vaccines in general, but she chose not to take it because there are no solid facts to back it up yet.
“I was there giving vaccines all day,” Concienne said. ““I think it is not a bad thing to get the vaccine. Just for me personally I would not take it because of the fact I have asthma.”
During the Q&A event in the Baugh Auditorium, McCormack addressed some of the concerns regarding immunization. McCormack said the COVID-19 vaccine is preventive and safe.
“Vaccine technology has been around for a number of years,” McCormack said. “Any time you get a vaccine that is preventive, the whole goal of it is to educate your immune system to produce the right immune response to protect you against that disease.”
McCormack said the vaccine was not rushed, and it has been under development for decades.
“It is a technology that has matured for this moment,” McCormack said. “The clinical trials that Moderna and Pfizer went through were extensive. They were as robust as any other clinical trial.”
McCormack said while there is a possibility of side effects after taking the vaccine, the vaccine cannot give someone COVID-19 or alter DNA. McCormack said there is no evidence supporting the vaccine might cause infertility and miscarriages.
McCormack said because of the short period since the vaccines are around, some questions do not have an answer yet due to lack of data.
“What are the long-term implications of the COVID-19 vaccine, or COVID-19? We do not know,” McCormack said. “We are not long term yet. What we do know is the COVID-19 vaccine protects, and we know it is safe and it is very effective.”
Risa Forrester, a member of the campus COVID-19 readiness team, said students need to keep following the safety measures.
“The Campus COVID Readiness Team is looking forward to the time when campus restrictions can be reconsidered,” Forrester said. “For now, we will continue to follow our Love Your Neighbor initiatives, including mask-wearing.”
Forrester said there are no plans to host another clinic, and April 19 will be only for those who took the first dose on March 15 and need the second dose.
“If that changes, we will alert the community,” Forrester said. “We do encourage students who did not participate on Monday to visit http://okahoma.vaccinate.gov to find an alternate local vaccine location.”