By Charlotte Berg, Nate Kieltyka, & Sabrina Vang
The COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for over a year now in the United States. Lately, the most talked-about question on everyone’s mind has been: “when will life be able to return to normal?” The massive rollout of vaccines in the United States may bring the answer to the question. Beginning April 5, people 16 and older can register to receive a vaccination for COVID-19 in Wisconsin. However, some people have questions and doubts about the effectiveness and safety behind the different available vaccines. The idea behind them is that everyone will take a vaccine, but this may or may not be the case.
The team (Charlotte Berg, Nathan Kieltyka, Sabrina Vang) created and distributed a survey via Qualtrics for the students at the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay (UWGB). The goal behind the survey was to get a sense of how UWGB students felt about the COVID-19 vaccines and how they felt about receiving the vaccine when they became eligible. There is a possibility of variance in whether any of the vaccines are worth taking for people in this age range. Other students may have questions about getting a vaccine or may be curious about how their fellow peers feel. Several questions were presented in the survey asking if students will receive the vaccine. They have done any research regarding the vaccines and how they work, and the safety of vaccines.
A total of 57 UWGB participated in this survey. Overall, more students said they would receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it became available or already have a vaccine. When asked what made you get the vaccine, one anonymous student responded, “to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect me and others.” However, some answered no, and others were undecided. “I have the opportunity, but I am still undecided if I want to get it or not,” said another student. From a research standpoint, over half of the 45 participants responded positively to having done some research on their own about the different vaccines. Some students already have the COVID-19 vaccine for reasons including working in healthcare or being an essential worker.
Over 50% of students said they had no preference about which vaccine they received regarding specific vaccine manufacturers. Pfizer was the next most popular choice at 27%. When asked about the safety of vaccines, over 75% said they believe they are safe.
Brian Merkel, an Associate Professor in Human Biology at UWGB, explains vaccines as follows, “Immunization puts a lock on [the] human house or an infectious agent. It greatly diminishes what the virus can do in the human body. You may have fewer symptoms because you’ve had the vaccine. It means that the virus can’t be as successful in your body, which means that we’re giving it a harder time to evolve and change.” Professor Merkel goes on to explain the importance of staying vigilant during times like these. He states, “Viruses do not have borders. As we go, our bugs travel with us. We have to behave and take necessary precautions.” Professor Merkel shares that these vaccines are incredibly safe vaccines that have gone through double-blind trials. Double-blind trials are defined as randomized trials in which statistician personnel are also blind to treatments. In these double-blind trials, they have reduced a significant number of biases as safety is the priority.
On a more positive note, the world’s effort this year has made a big difference for other illnesses besides COVID-19. Merkel says Influenza A, B, and C cases were incredibly low this year due to masks and social distancing protocols.
Although the future of COVID-19 is unknown, Merkel and other scientists know there will be a Long Hauler Syndrome. Long Hauler is defined as a person who suffers from symptoms of COVID-19 for longer than two weeks and generally lasts many months. These patients still have mild symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, and brain fog. Merkel says there will be many long-term (years) effects of COVID-19 for severely hit but semi-recovered ones. According to the CDC, those affected could have different lung capacity or memory problems. Official research and academic articles won’t be out until the virus is overcome and the information is understandable to the world.
As of now, invite conversations with your family and friends about COVID-19 itself and the vaccines created to combat the virus. During tough times like these, people need to talk about their feelings and opinions. The battle against the virus has been lengthy and dreadful. Therefore staying educated about this virus is extremely crucial in winning this battle.