By Lindsey White
The Chronicle of Higher Education has identified 1,053 universities across the nation that are requiring the vaccine for residential students; however, Trevecca Nazarene University is taking an educational approach to encourage students to get vaccinated.
“We’re an educational facility, we truly believe the truth is there and by taking the time to ask questions and look at it you can find the truth,” said Alisha Russel, associate professor of Biology.
There are currently 54 percent of fully vaccinated students and 76 percent of faculty and staff, according to Samantha Craighead, Resident Healthcare Provider.
The administration of the university hopes to get numbers high enough for herd immunity to apply, which is about 75 percent, by initiating open conversations for questions through the COVID Education Team. The COVID Education Team consists of six experts in the fields of biology, medicine, and religion who have come together to research and discuss questions regarding COVID-19 on campus.
“All hesitancy is reasonable, and it is fine to be in that place with questions. No one can pretend to have all the answers to all the things, but I would encourage those with questions to seek out accurate answers,” said Craighead.
Frequent questions about the vaccine have to do with the quick release, students feeling they are at low risk of contracting a serious case of the virus, and rumors of infertility as a side effect according to Russel.
“What we’re finding is a wide variety of reasons that people are hesitant, and our goal is not to force someone but just to address the questions,” said Russel.
Russel said research for a coronavirus vaccine has been in development since an outbreak of SARS-CoV-1 in 2002, making the process of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine release so quick.
“The groundwork had already been started, it’s not like we were starting from scratch,” said Russel.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has put younger individuals at a higher risk than the original variant, making the vaccine more urgent and necessary for them, said Russel.
“The virus is very smart, it’s very adept at infecting lots of individuals and then causing serious disease,” said Craighead.
Women who hope for a future pregnancy have questioned vaccination. According to the American College of Gynecology, all pregnant individuals and anyone who wants to be pregnant should get the vaccine. Studies have shown no difference in fertility rates between those that have gotten the vaccine, those that were diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who have never been exposed to either.
“If infertility were a possibility, we wouldn’t want to mass vaccinate people,” said Russel.
The misconception of fertility issues comes from similarities between a protein important during placental implantation and a protein found in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. However, the region of similarity is too small for the immune system to recognize and antibodies against COVID-19 would not affect fertility, said Russel.
“We definitely want to honor people’s right to make a choice about what is right for them medically, emotionally, and spiritually. If they feel that getting vaccination is not the right decision for them at this time, then we want to honor that freedom,” said Craighead.
For further information on the vaccine, email CovidEducationTeam@trevecca.edu. If any student wants to get the vaccine, appointments can be scheduled at the clinic by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
“We want you to have the best possible experience, we want you to have all the Trevecca community can offer, and to do that we need to get back to normal,” said Russel.