OLIVIA HARVEY, Features Editor—On March 16, the Ohio Department of Health announced that residents aged 16+ would be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, starting March 29. As we pass the one-year anniversary of lockdown, it is remarkable that vaccines have been produced with such accuracy, and are becoming widely available to the public. 

Every Denisonian should attempt to get whichever of the three vaccines made available, as soon as they can. All options have been authorized for use and provide protection against Covid-19, not just for yourself, but also for everyone with whom you come in contact. While the World Health Organization concedes a lack of concrete knowledge as to how many people will need to be vaccinated to get rid of the virus for good, experts estimate that between 70% and 85% of the population would need to be immune–either by vaccination or having survived catching the virus–from Covid before the disease fades and herd immunity grows. So far, according to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 23% of the U.S. population has been inoculated with at least one dose of the vaccine.

I understand that to many of us laymen, the rapid development of this shot could seem daunting, and the technology difficult to understand. The information is out there, but so are conspiracy theories and disinformation. To understand the timeline, let’s look at how the roll-out of authorized vaccines has gone.

In December of 2020, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the U.S. Soon after, the FDA authorized the use of the Moderna vaccine in the country. Both use new mRNA technology, which provides the template to our cells for how to make a harmless spike protein, similar to what is on the surface of a SARS-CoV-2 virus. The CDC explains, “After the protein piece is made, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19. At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection.” In addition, the CDC clarifies that mRNA vaccines do not affect DNA and cannot give you the virus.

In February, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was authorized by the FDA, and has since been met with controversy as to how it ranks in efficacy with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a ‘viral vector’ vaccine, and also provides the recipe for the spike protein, so to speak, but does so with a “shell” virus, which has been modified so that it is no longer able to replicate and cause the disease. The hesitancy toward the J&J vaccine stems from the fact that, globally, the overall efficacy is 66% percent (and 72% in the U.S.), which is lower than that of the mRNA vaccines. But while one could contract a mild case after immunization, it is extremely effective at avoiding hospitalizations and death, which were prevented at a rate of 100% during the trial period.

Receiving the vaccine was not only a stipulation in our Community Care Agreement (that we all signed in order to come back to the Hill), but it would be vital in protecting each other. The moral responsibility rests on every one of us to do the utmost possible that we can to stop the spread of such a deadly disease and reduce the danger posed to immunocompromised individuals who are at greater risk and may not be able to be vaccinated. Anyone can get sick–even twentysomething-year-olds, and after sickness, insomnia, loss of smell/taste and severe asthma are all lingering chronic impacts that can last a lifetime for even the healthiest of individuals. And as we are well aware, the casualty rate in the US has exceeded half of a million. What is at stake is quite literally a question of life or death. 

Additionally, if students are able to get at least the first dose before returning home, we are also significantly reducing the possibility of infecting our families as we travel and disperse across the country. As college students, our parents and other loved ones may be at an age that means they would be at a higher risk of contracting a severe case of Covid. 

Ideally, Denison would provide guidance as to how students may access vaccination (and transport to providers), but for now, using websites like VaccineFinder or the Ohio Department of Health’s Covid-19 Dashboard is a great option for finding providers in Licking County. For most sites, the vaccine is free to all, but in order to bill an insurance provider, make sure to bring an insurance card. For those without insurance, you’ll need a Social Security number and/or driver’s license/ID.

If we want any semblance of what Hill life used to be like, pre-pandemic, then vaccination is a giant leap in the right direction. Please consider getting the first dose as soon as you can, and do a good deed for your fellow students and loved ones.