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Vaccine Hesitancy in the Drake Community

Photo Courtesy of Arek Socha | Pixabay

Last Thursday on Sept. 9, President Biden announced that the White House will be mandating vaccines for all workplaces with over 100 employees. While university students are not considered “employees,” Drake is doing what they can to encourage higher vaccine rates among students and staff, including the use of incentives and the urging of students to get the vaccine in weekly COVID update emails.

An anonymous Drake member believes this is the right approach from the university. “Drake’s been great,” they said. “[They’re saying] ‘Yes, we encourage you to get it. We’re doing all these clinics, pharmacy students are getting shots,’ it’s great, it’s kind of a natural thing for Drake, but they haven’t really been like, hey get it or else. I’ve got nothing but good things to say.”

They list their three biggest reasons for being unvaccinated as religion, previous adverse reactions from the flu shot and distrust of the speed at which the vaccine has moved through approval stages, both personally and from the scientific community as a whole. There are other reasons for why people are hesitant to receive the vaccine, though. 

Pharmacy student Ashley Grady, who has been working with the Hy-Vee vaccination clinics in the greater Des Moines area, said the biggest reason she hears from students who choose to remain unvaccinated is that they are young and healthy, so they do not feel that they need the vaccine. 

Grady said that this is false because COVID-19 is not a disease that the human body or population has had a chance to build immunity to, as it is a new virus. She said that it is important to get the vaccine so “your body can produce antibodies that will protect you against the virus.”

Grady also said that “other [people] are misinformed about the contents of the vaccine or are worried about potential side-effects, short-term and long-term,” which is further holding individuals and populations back from receiving the vaccine. 

The anonymous source and Grady agreed that the 2020 election changed the public’s point of view on the vaccine. 

“When Trump was president and he started saying that we have to start having the FDA move faster on drugs, and less regulation … Everybody in the scientific community was like, ‘Whoa, that’s not a good idea at all.’ You don’t want to do that because there’s a reason that that’s in place right there and you got to go, you got to these drug companies have to… jump through all these hoops to make sure [new medications are] safe and effective.” 

The anonymous source said they are not a “politics person” and is an Independent. 

“And then the election happened, and the person in office, the letter behind their name changed, and then everybody else was suddenly okay with [the untested vaccine]. And all of a sudden it became okay to do that, it’s like yes, you have to get this vaccination.”

Grady also believes that the pandemic and the vaccine have been affected by politics. 

“Unfortunately, the pandemic and vaccines have been politicized so much that people use their political identification as a reason to not get the vaccine.” 

Grady and the anonymous source have different hopes for the future regarding the virus. 

“Besides working at a community pharmacy, I also work at a hospital, and sometimes I have to go on the designated COVID floor to deliver medications,” said Grady. “It is a very sad sight to see, at first elderly, but now younger patients being intubated. The floor does not allow any visitors either, so your family and friends would not be there to comfort you as you struggle against this virus that you could have been better protected from. I would hate to see any of my college friends in that situation.” 

But, the anonymous source believes COVID is likely to be a yearly virus, much like the flu. 

“It’s just gonna do what viruses do; they want to survive too,” they said. “And so they’re like, oh I can’t survive this. So, do survive it and then mutate, and you get different versions. So what I see is this becoming very much like what happened with H1 and all the other variants that they’re going to have.”

They said that the public is treating a “flu-like virus with an ebola virus response,” when it doesn’t need to be.  

 “We’ve got this vaccine for it this year…  And you may still get it. It’s just like the flu. I think it will be the same way eventually with COVID, like five years down the road. Another winter virus.”

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