To Get a Shot, Or Not?

Kiley Peterson and Lucy Call

Throughout the last couple of months, the COVID-19 vaccine has been a hot topic. As the vaccine is becoming more available, people are struggling with the question of “should I take it?” For some, the answer to this question is “100% yes” while for others, they are having more of a hard time deciding.

So how do students at BV West feel towards the vaccine? Are there as many people hesitant to get it as there are eager? We asked a wide variety of the Spotlight’s Instagram followers if they were willing to get it or what their thoughts were on the vaccine. Out of 155 people, 68% said yes, they were willing to get it, and 32% said no. The Spotlight reached out to a few people to gather their thoughts on the topic, and what causes them to feel the way they do about the new vaccine.

Junior Humphrey Luo and Junior Sophia Chrans both voted that they would be willing to get the vaccine, and elaborated on why they’ve come to the conclusion that they have. Both students are happy they are of age and looking forward to getting it, though complications still threaten.

There aren’t always perfect circumstances surrounding the virus vaccine. Chrans is still hoping she gets the opportunity for it, though for her specifically it could prove challenging. “I have a large combination of severe chronic medical conditions,” she said. “[I’ve had] …allergic reactions. And a bad history with vaccines in the past.” The possibility of having a severe allergic reaction lends caution in Chrans and her doctor. Due to this, there is less certainty around her ability to get vaccinated in the near future. This type of caution and danger surrounding the vaccine could be a concern for many people and is worth noting.

However, Chrans sees her circumstances as a specialized, individual case. She is also willing to do whatever she can to help defeat the virus and hopes things can be worked out with her immunologist. She advocates for the vaccine being distributed amongst the general public. “I believe it’s safe, it’s effective, and it’s the only hope we have for curing this pandemic,” she says.

Luo is comfortable putting his trust in the manufacturers and scientists behind the vaccine. “…I feel like the people making the vaccines are very specialized in their field and are knowledgeable about disease control,” he said. Luo is concerned with herd immunity and the importance of mandating the vaccine, though he recognizes the discourse that might ensue. “Not just political, but religious and personal I think,” Luo said.

Both juniors are able to understand why others are hesitant to get vaccinated. “But I think that, even though some people are hesitant, when more research comes out they’ll be less so,” Luo said. “Side effects… [Thinking] that it’s sketchy. I totally understand this,” Chrans says. She acknowledges the safety concerns or differences of opinion others may have. Though they don’t agree, these pro-vaccine students are able to see the other side of the debate and how it too means a lot to people.

Senior Krysten Hearron and sophomore Kate Gifford both would agree that at this point in time, getting the vaccine isn’t in their best interest.

“I have my doubts about whether the vaccine is safe, I have a hard time believing it, just because of how quickly they had it manufactured,” Hearron said.

Before the COVID-19 vaccine, the fastest that any vaccine had been developed to the point of approval was 4 years. The current COVID-19 vaccine took less than a year until it was approved, so it makes sense that some people have their doubts.

“I am pretty cautious about how quickly it was distributed as that is something they have never seen before,” Hearron said. “Especially with an mRNA vaccine that hasn’t been used before.”

One of the many things that makes the COVID-19 vaccine unique from any other, is the fact that it has to do with mRNA. This type of vaccine benefits from the protein making process in our bodies, and it triggers a response to help build immunity to SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. mRNA is a type of protein that sends messages to cells in our body, and is used in the vaccine to send messages to our cells to make a certain type of protein that aids in the production of antibodies from our immune system. While this type of vaccine is new, it’s something that has been studied for more than a decade, according to the CDC. However, because it is so new, there is no way of knowing the long-term side effects this vaccine could have, which is something that concerns many people.
“I personally would not [get the vaccine] with my age and health because of the unknown long term effects of the vaccine,” Gifford said.

On the Houston Methodist Leading Medicine website, Dr. H. Sostman, president of the Academic Institute at Houston Methodist, states that there certainly isn’t anything in the technology to-date that suggests there is any reason to worry about the long-term side effects of the vaccine. However that same website states that “the reality is that these vaccines haven’t yet been studied for the long-term, so it’s too soon to answer if any unknown risks may exist.”

Whatever the reason may be, it is important to acknowledge that there are people who are hesitant to get the vaccine. When it comes to taking a vaccine that is so new, of course people would be cautious when deciding whether or not to take it.

While there are students who discuss their opposition or support for the vaccine, there are some who have already gotten it. Senior Hannah Cowen is one of those students. Cowen works as a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) at Bickford Assisted Living in Overland Park and when the opportunity to get the vaccine presented itself, she decided that taking it made the most sense for her, and the community.
“I got the vaccine offered to me, free through my work, and I got it because I wanted to try and slow down the spread of COVID-19.” Cowen said.

Slowing down the spread of COVID-19 is something that everyone wants, however some people are hesitant to get the vaccine because of the side effects it can have. Cowen did experience some side-effects, but nothing severe.
“The first round I had no reactions,” Cowen said. “However the second round I felt sick for 24 hours and then recovered completely.”

While Cowen is glad that she got the vaccine, and feels safer because of it, she can also see why some people are hesitant to get it.

“Some people may think it is necessary because it could be much more effective if everyone got it,” Cowen said. “But I think the hesitation falls under the category of the nature of time. It is such a new thing that there could be future side effects that are unknown and it could be scary for some individuals to get it so early when these possible side effects are unknown.”

It’s important for each individual person to weigh the risks factors and benefits, along with their age and health to determine if the vaccine is something that would be a good fit for them.