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College Students Await COVID-19 Vaccine In Hopes Of Return To Normalcy

sign at vaccination clinic
Emily Bollinger
As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out across the country, young adults will have to wait a while for the vaccine that brings hope of a return to normal.

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the country, many people slated to receive their shots later say they look forward to a more normal version of life—college students, for instance.

COVID-19 outbreaks are easing across the nation, but most colleges and universities have not returned to in-person instruction. Young adults will have to wait a while for the vaccine. They’re in phase three of the CDC distribution plan. Most communities are still in phase 1b or just entering 1a. 

Christina Nulty is the director of Illinois State University's Student Health Services. She said the university isn’t sure when college students will get the vaccine.

“There's no way that we will know which members of the population have received the vaccines and which ones haven't. It's not like you can tell by looking at somebody if they've had the vaccine. Therefore, since some people will have had it and some people won't, we'll continue to need to do that to protect ourselves and everybody else from spreads.”

"It's just exciting because we have a chance to go back to somewhat normalcy."

Nulty said federal and state requirements will guide the university’s decision on vaccine protocols. Until then, she recommends everyone continue social distancing and wearing masks.

College students in Normal are both excited and anxious about the vaccine. ISU student Chloe Osborn said she was nervous at first about potential long-term effects and the symptoms some experience after getting the shot. That eased when she learned more about the vaccine and saw others receive it.

“I'm more excited just because obviously, this is our first time being in a pandemic, and it was rough on everyone involved,” Osborn said. “It's just exciting because we have a chance to go back to somewhat normalcy.”

Nulty said there's so much to learn about the coronavirus, noting studies hasn't been out long enough to confirm people will not contract the virus at all or if it can still be transmitted after the vaccine. But studies do show a decrease in symptoms if one gets the vaccine. Even the CDC has to change the recommendations as it learns more, which Nulty said she understands can puzzle many. Nonetheless, she said everyone getting vaccinated can more quickly return to normal life. 

"It's hard to tell what the effects are going to be. It's hard to know how many people are going to get the vaccine and what that's going to look like over the next three to six months. So I think that'll be a big deciding factor, is if there's a big response to the vaccine, that'll be great."

Morgan Zacharias, an ISU nursing student, said she already has received one dose of the Moderna vaccine and is waiting to receive the second dose. She said she had no major symptoms, just soreness from the injection. Zacharias said one of the reasons she took the vaccine is to help the community feel comfortable about its effectiveness and safely.

“I feel that me taking this step and just, you know, getting this vaccine will help guide individuals and educate individuals because a lot of people have asked me questions. They're just like helping people and I just wanted to take that first step to help people and I feel like this kind of opened the door.”

Zacharias said she hopes everyone can be vaccinated by the summer. She said it’s OK for people to have doubts about the vaccine and that doing thorough research can ease some of skepticism and guide their decision making.

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Darnysha Mitchell is an Illinois State University student and reporting and social media intern at WGLT.