LULA BURKE, News Editor—Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced March 16 that, beginning March 29, eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will expand to all Ohioans ages 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine approved by the FDA for vaccinating those ages 16 and 17, but citizens 18 and older may receive any of the available vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson).
In a virtual Town Hall live-streamed March 9, Denison’s Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Fareeda Griffith led a discussion with Dr. Abigail Norris Turner, an infectious diseases
epidemiologist, and Dr. Jose Bazan, an osteopathic physician, both of whom work at the Ohio State University. Though the event occurred before DeWine’s statement, the discussion addressed a myriad of questions posed by students about the logistics of the vaccine.
Dr. Bazan first addressed the vaccines from a scientific perspective, explaining the nRNA vaccines “contain a piece of genetic code that serves as a template or instructions for our own cells to produce a piece of a “spike” protein,” which allows the immune system to fight off a very small amount of COVID-19 infected cells. This allows cells to “expect,” “defend” and “protect” from COVID-19 infection in a real-world setting.
Some students expressed concern about the fast development of the COVID-19 vaccine: Though some vaccines take more than 10 years to finish, this vaccine received copious amounts of funding and was not made from scratch,
instead building on other novel coronavirus vaccines.
Dr. Turner assured that though a few aspects of the vaccine trials were changed due to the unique, mass circumstances of COVID-19, safety was not compromised.
“The same safety endpoints that are so essential for understanding if the vaccine is safe were collected, and the same efficacy data to show whether the product is going to prevent disease […] were collected, and by the time the package was handed to the FDA, they had all of the information that they normally have from any other vaccine product.”
Dr. Bazan mirrored this sentiment but did warn students there is a chance they could experience some mild symptoms, though these symptoms typically wane one to three days post-vaccination. Individuals are susceptible to symptoms from any vaccine, such as typical ones for Polio or MMR.
“[Symptoms from the COVID-19 vaccine] can include things like soreness in the arm, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, and sometimes even fevers or chills. This indicates that your immune system is mounting a response to the vaccine,” he said, including that the COVID-19 vaccine does not include the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so recipients cannot obtain COVID-19 from the vaccine directly.
Sullivan Whitehead ‘24 from Granville, Ohio was able to receive the Pfizer vaccine in early and mid February, as he was working at a nursing home at the time. He had a reaction similar to what Dr. Bazan described.
“I was more groggy than usual during the following days after my first dosage. This lasted for 3 to 4 days but wasn’t anything unbearable,” he said.
“In contrast, I felt terrible the day after receiving the second dosage. I had body aches and was feverish. All my symptoms from the second dosage went away after a full night’s rest. It was really strange to feel so terribly one day and be completely fine the next.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be nearly 95% effective in “preventing symptomatic COVID-19,” whereas the Johnson & Johnson brand is closer to 66% effectve—all three are approved by the FDA. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one.
Vaccine allocation is based on supply, and is determined by the state of Ohio; according to Dr. Bazan, Denison will likely not have a say in which vaccine is available to students through the university. It is yet to be determined whether or not the vaccine will be mandatory for all students, or whether the vaccine will be allocated to students during this semester. However, Griffith said that it is likely that it will be.
Dr. Turner drew on a recent CDC update to explain that student life could potentially return back to normal, but only if every single student received the vaccine and adhered to appropriate guidelines.
“Fully vaccinated people […]can be indoors and unmasked and within six feet of one another if all of the other people there are fully vaccinated,” she said. “Fully vaccinated people can also be with unvaccinated but low risk people within a single household,” such as vaccinated grandparents visiting unvaccinated grandchildren.
Other questions, such as “What do you say to those who are hesitant or don’t trust the vaccine?” were also addressed during the Town Hall.
The full video can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ve5_wtfak0