Ball State faculty and students reflecting on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

<p>Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns gets his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine March 11, 2021, at IU Ball Memorial Hospital. In an April 1 email, Mearns encouraged members of the student body to receive vaccines now that they are eligible. <strong>Jaden Whiteman, DN File</strong></p>

Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns gets his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine March 11, 2021, at IU Ball Memorial Hospital. In an April 1 email, Mearns encouraged members of the student body to receive vaccines now that they are eligible. Jaden Whiteman, DN File

How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment

Once you’re eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccine in Indiana, schedule an appointment by visiting OurShot.in.gov or calling 211 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. 

Hoosiers with specific conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe illness from contracting COVID-19 are eligible to be vaccinated once their healthcare provider submits their information to the Indiana Department of Health.

Vaccines are also available at Walmart, Meijer and Kroger. Walmart uses the state’s registration system, but Meijer and Kroger each have their own systems. Meijer will ask questions about vaccine eligibility and require a zip code to find nearby pharmacies that offer vaccinations. Kroger will ask for a zip code to find nearby pharmacies and will specify which stores offer COVID-19 vaccines. 

Source: Indiana State Department of Health

Before March 2020, the definition of “normal” was completely different. The gravity of the coronavirus pandemic was unknown, Zoom calls weren’t a thought and “face mask” was a football term. In the last year, millions of people in the United States have been infected by the virus, and hundreds of thousands have died. Now, there is hope for a return to normalcy.

Indiana K-12 teachers and school employees are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of March 15, 2021, and eligibility was expanded to Indiana residents age 45 and older March 16. The Indiana Department of Health will continue to lower age group eligibility over time with instruction from President Joe Biden to open vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1, 2021.

‘I want to protect those I love’

Some members of the Ball State community have been vaccinated for COVID-19, including President Geoffrey Mearns, who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine March 11, one year after he announced campus would be shutting down due to the pandemic.

“Please get the vaccine. It’s safe, it’s effective and it’s the way in which we can all make a contribution toward defeating the pandemic,” Mearns said after receiving the vaccine. 

Stan Sollars, senior lecturer of telecommunications, was also vaccinated recently. Sollars and his wife, both in the eligible age group at the time, received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine in February and recently got their second shots.

“My wife and I follow science,” Sollars said. “We want to not just protect ourselves, but we want to protect relatives of ours who have some health challenges and also friends of ours as well.”

Sollars said he felt no side effects after the first shot, but he did after the second. He had a headache, a fever and muscle aches for about two days after he received his second dose. Before getting the second shot, Sollars was warned about the side effects, so he planned activities for his classes that would not require meeting in person. 

Sollars said getting the vaccine “is well worth it,” and he has been actively sharing the benefits of receiving it on Facebook.

“I want people to know to get the shot,” Sollars said. “I want people to get vaccinated. Let’s get this pandemic over with so that we can get on with our lives.”

Another vaccinated faculty member is Jackie Buckrop, special assistant for academic operations and communication studies professor. 

“There’s one major reason [I chose to be vaccinated],” Buckrop said. “I want to protect myself, but, more importantly, I want to protect those I love.”

Before signing up for an appointment, Buckrop said, she researched the vaccine and asked professors in Ball State’s biology department about it. Buckrop said she has never had a serious negative reaction to a vaccine but wanted to make sure before getting one for COVID-19.

She got the first Pfizer vaccine dose March 4 at Ball Memorial Hospital and plans to get the second shot March 25.

Buckrop said the vaccination process was “very easy” and simple to schedule, and the appointment itself was fast. She received her vaccine, waited 15 minutes to see if she had any allergic reactions and scheduled her second appointment in less than an hour.

Buckrop said she strongly encourages everyone who can get the vaccine to do so as soon as their age group is eligible.

“I don’t think anybody wants to do this again,” she said. “Nobody wants to be shut down, nobody wants to be isolated, nobody wants to miss out.”

‘Doing all that you can’

Senior nursing major Emma Corwin said she got the Moderna vaccine in mid-January at the Hendricks County fairgrounds. 

“When I first got the email that the vaccine was available for [nursing] students, I immediately signed up,” Corwin said.

She got the vaccine to protect herself and the patients she serves, Corwin said, but also because she hopes it will end the pandemic. 

Like Buckrop, Corwin said signing up for the vaccine was “incredibly easy.” She went through the same process — getting her vaccine, waiting to see if she had an allergic reaction and scheduling her next appointment.

After the first shot, Corwin said, she did not feel any side effects, but she did after the second shot. She had a low-grade fever and felt tired, which are common side effects of the second shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I recommend that people should get vaccinated when it’s their time in order to protect the people around them,” Corwin said. “Once herd immunity is reached, things can go back to the way they were.”

Another nursing major who received the vaccine is senior Lauren Hamil. She said she decided to get the vaccine because she interacts with a variety of patients and she wants to protect her family and friends from the virus.

Hamil received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January at Ball Memorial Hospital after receiving an email that directed her to schedule an appointment on the hospital’s website.

She said she did not experience any side effects after the vaccination and felt “very lucky for that.” Hamil also recommends everyone gets vaccinated at some point.

“It’s so comforting knowing that you’re doing all that you can to keep your family — like your parents and grandparents — safe from the virus,” Hamil said.

‘I want my life back’

Ava Peterson, junior business analytics major, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Walmart March 7.

“I wanted to get the vaccine because I want my life back,” Peterson said. “I feel like I’ve been really careful this whole time, and I didn’t want to end up getting [the coronavirus].”

Peterson said she was on the waitlist for the vaccine for a month before she called Walmart and asked if she could receive it. Walmart was prioritizing student teachers, which Peterson is not, so her wait time was longer.

She said it took her about an hour to get vaccinated, including arriving, checking in and waiting to see if she had an allergic reaction. The only side effect Peterson said she experienced was mild fatigue and a sore arm.

“That’s pretty common with your first shot, so I didn’t experience anything too crazy,” Peterson said. “I would definitely do it 12 times over again.”

McKenna Crews, senior social studies education major, also received the Moderna vaccine at Walmart after being put on the standby list. Crews is a student teacher at Muncie Central High School and said she wanted to get vaccinated to protect her students, coworkers, family and friends.

Crews said she received the vaccine because Walmart was giving first preference to school employees, but, at the time, teachers had not been cleared for the vaccine. Indiana Health Commissioner Kris Box announced Feb. 24 in a press conference the state would ensure vaccine clinics aren’t being too generous with their waitlists in allowing people not yet eligible under state guidelines to sign up.

Crews got her first dose of the vaccine Feb. 15 and her second dose March 15. She said staff members at Walmart “were wonderful and so helpful” in prioritizing people most at-risk for developing COVID-19 and added that she is relying on other people to get their vaccinations so she doesn’t contract the virus.

“I also got the vaccine to help kids like me who could be killed by this from not having a [strong] immune system,” she said.

After being vaccinated, Crews said, she did not experience any serious side effects, but her arm was sore, and she had some fatigue.

Crews recommends everyone get the vaccine when they are eligible unless they have a medical condition that will prevent them from getting it. If enough people vaccinate, she believes an end to the pandemic is in sight.

“Keep wearing your masks, stay home, don’t go to parties and get your vaccine when you are able to,” Crews said. “Do it for the people you love if you don’t do it for yourself.”

Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at mrwilkins@bsu.edu or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.

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