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To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate: Students and faculty discuss need for vaccination

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Vaccine pod day

Students wait in line at Gallagher-Iba Arena to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Oklahoma has become an unlikely frontrunner in the race to get the country vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this week, the state became one of the first to offer the vaccine to anyone and everyone over the age of 16, even those who live out of state.

As of March 31, 5,953 full vaccinations have been completed at the OSU University Health Services clinic alone. Still, the vaccine is surrounded in controversy. 

Many students at OSU feel like the pandemic is wrapping up, and therefore do not see an immediate need for continued precaution. 

“My body, my choice. I hate to bring that up, but we can throw that right back in their faces,” said an anonymous freshman. “It’s my choice to get vaccinated or not. The other people are protected. I’m not putting them at risk, it’s my own risk, I’m going to take.”

The freshman expressed concern that they felt that it rolled out too fast and hasn’t been thoroughly tested, and could even be described as questionable. The student added that OSU has done a good job at respecting students and not making them feel like they’re forced to take it.

Although it may seem that most people have extremely strong opinions about the vaccine, the majority of students appear to quietly sit in the middle ground.

“I just got the vaccine so I could hang out with my friends again and not get sick,” animal science junior Kinzie Burtrum said. “I’m not too worried about what’s in it. I didn’t have any side effects from it –– I got Pfizer –– which sucks because I wanted to skip work.”

Burtrum recommended that all students get it if they didn’t have major health concerns.

“All I have is asthma, so really I just don’t want to die,” Burtrum said. 

Though OSU has made it easy for students and faculty to get vaccinated if they choose to do so, vaccine appointments can be fairly elusive for other Stillwater residents. 

“If you’re affiliated with an institution like OSU, you’re lucky,” Ariel Ross, an English professor at OSU and a city council candidate, said. “Many people are relying on friends to text them and say ‘Hey, there are appointments in this place, for this shot.’ My mom had to drive to Enid for her second shot, and she felt like she was scrambling.”

As for encouraging people to get vaccinated, Ross said she was in favor of incentives rather than fear-mongering. 

“I’m all about incentives. We’ve had enough guilt and fear, and we respond better to hope and excitement.”

Oklahoma has administered well over two million doses so far, after rolling out the vaccine a little over 3 months ago. Almost a quarter of the state is fully vaccinated. After heavy criticism from the loose COVID-19 guidelines, the state is bouncing back and emerging as a leader in vaccine accessibility.