By Anastasia Bekker
Elm Staff Writer
With vaccines in the state of Maryland recently becoming available for those 16 or older, Washington College is supporting and encouraging students to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus for an in-person college experience for the fall semester.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting vaccinated not only helps protect you from contracting the COVID-19 virus, but those around you as well. This is especially true for those with pre-existing conditions, which can make the effects of the COVID-19 virus more severe.
Additionally, the more students, faculty, and staff that get vaccinated, the closer the College gets to herd immunity, the state where most of a community has been immunized to a disease.
“I think the more people in our community or in our bubble or in our flock that get the vaccine, I think the safer we’re going to be,” Lisa Marx, the director of WC Health Services, said.
For those with concerns about health effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, Marx suggests talking to your doctor for more information.
“If people are leery about getting the vaccine, I definitely encourage them to talk to their healthcare provider [or] their families to … weigh the pros and cons of getting it, Marx said.
It’s also important to keep yourself informed, to differentiate rumors about the vaccine from its real effects. According to Dr. Sarah Feyerherm, the Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, the best way to do this is to learn as much about the vaccine as possible.
“Get as much factual information as you can,” Dr. Feyerherm said. “So much of people’s decisions around this are based on … the circle of people they are talking to, and fears, and things like that … I say talk to people who have had the vaccine.”
For those who have decided to get the vaccine, the process has become easier in the past months — especially as Maryland has, as of April 6, opened vaccinations to a younger age group when previously they were only available to those 65 and older.
According to the COVID-19 information page on the Maryland government’s website, mass vaccination clinics have opened up to anyone 16 or older on April 6, and as of April 12, every Marylander 16 or older will be able to get vaccines from any provider.
To sign up for an appointment to get a vaccine at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury, go to https://massvax.maryland.gov/. The website will guide you through creating your appointment, and you will pick a location and schedule times for either one or two appointments.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two appointments, while, as of April 13, the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine has been put on hold by the Food & Drug Administration after six reports of rare clotting cases have been made.
You may have to bring documents verifying your eligibility to get the vaccine, but this is not true for all clinics. Your insurance, social security number, and ID are not necessary for signing up for an appointment, but you may want to bring a form of government-issued ID to the vaccination clinic. What to bring will be listed with your appointment reminder.
After you get vaccinated, a healthcare worker will give you a vaccination card with information about your appointment. If you’re getting two shots, you will have to bring this card to your second appointment.
If a student signs up for an appointment but still needs to get to the clinic, they can email email@example.com for a free ride to the vaccination site.
If the transportation team has 72 hours’ notice, they’ll take students to vaccination sites within a 100-mile radius of the College, including the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in Salisbury and the vaccination center at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
WC Health Services also hopes to have vaccines on campus by partnering with ImmuNet, the Maryland government’s immunization information system that distributes and records vaccinations across the state.
However, the College is currently on a waiting list to get vaccines from ImmuNet, and with the state focusing on stocking larger vaccination sites, it’s unknown how long this process will take.
“It’s definitely been a challenge for every person [to get a vaccine],” Marx said. “But small colleges, I think, are particularly in a tougher situation, especially in a small county like ours.”
But even with Marylanders getting more access to clinics, the question remains: once more of the WC community gets vaccinated, what effect will it have?
We’ll still have to keep wearing masks, sanitizing, and social distancing indoors. However, being closer to herd immunity could allow for greater face-to-face interaction.
“You’re going to see some things that stay the same, that are sort of your safety valve, [including wearing a] mask, [being in] quarantine, and [in] isolation … but you will start to see higher occupancy allowances in the Dining Hall and Residence Hall,” Dr. Feyerherm said.
Though the vaccines are reported to be effective for protecting individuals against contracting the COVID-19 virus thus far by the CDC, getting vaccinated doesn’t prevent you from spreading the virus to others.
According to Marx, vaccination is just one of several strategies that can keep a person protected.
“[I]t’s not just one individual mitigation strategy that’s going to keep you from getting it, but it’s going to be layers,” Marx said. “Getting a vaccine, wearing a mask, staying six feet away when you can, washing your hands as often as you can… all of those things are going to help us reduce your risk and help us get back to more of a normal lifestyle.”
More vaccination can lead to higher occupancy levels — however, vaccinations will only change the plans for the coming semester if they are reported.
“If we have 90% of our population that’s vaccinated and we don’t know that, we’re going to make different decisions than if we [do] know,” Dr. Feyerherm said.
If you’ve already been vaccinated, be sure to report your proof of vaccination, preferably your vaccination card, to the College’s Health Services. As a health care provider, Health Services maintains confidentiality and will not share reported information.
To make reporting vaccinations easier, WC Health Services is currently working with the Emocha app, which the campus already uses to report symptoms. A new update may allow individuals to use the app to let Health Services know whether they have gotten a vaccine.
Although this coming semester will not be free of masks and social distancing, vaccinations will help our campus return to the in-person teaching the College takes pride in. The more the WC community educates itself, the more we will be able keep COVID-19 cases off our campus.