Leah Van Weelden
Baker University has partnered with Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health to offer students and Baldwin City residents the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free. Shortly after the COVID-19 Pop-Up Clinic held on Aug. 19, Baker plans to hold a second clinic on Aug. 30 in Collins Gym from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The first 75 participants will receive t-shirts, gift cards and other prizes.
The lack of health care facilities in Baldwin City creates a barrier for those in the area seeking COVID-19 testing or vaccinations.
Originating from India, the Delta variant is a new strain of COVID-19 that has ramped up response efforts globally. Recent studies have shown this strain to be two times more contagious than previous strains of COVID-19. Data also suggests the Delta variant can cause more severe illness due to higher levels of virus in the respiratory tract. Nationally, unvaccinated people remain the group with the highest risk for transmitting COVID-19. As of Jul. 22, 97% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Darcy Russell, wanted to provide a safe and convenient way for students and Baldwin City residents to receive the vaccine. She explains how she worked with the university to set up several vaccination clinics for students and the community.
“When the vaccine became available, we knew we wanted to provide a way for students at Baker to get access,” Russell said. “We called Douglas County Health and we asked them if there was any way they could send a small team down here to do a clinic for us and they did.”
The first Pop-Up Clinic was held on Apr. 29 with over 100 students receiving vaccinations. Since then, there have been three vaccination clinics held at Baker University.
Russell earned her Ph.D. in virology and has studied viruses for over 40 years. She has also been a part of designing vaccines.
“When you see huge numbers of people dying and you know that a vaccine will slow that down so dramatically, I want to be part of the messaging that I have confidence in these vaccines,” Russell said. “I know they are safe. I have read and studied the technology, and I believe in it.”
Senior Zoe Brewer, the chapter president of Zeta Tau Alpha and a member of the softball team chose to get vaccinated because she wanted to be able to protect herself and others.
“Being young, we are responsible for taking care of older generations and others that cannot protect themselves,” Brewer said.
Sophomore Larry Smith, a member Delta Tau Delta and the football team also chose to be vaccinated.
“I got vaccinated because I want to become someone who does research and I feel that if I do not trust other people’s research then why would someone trust mine,” Smith said.
“The biggest reason people are so against COVID-19 and everything else is because they have to wear masks in public,” Smith said. “The more people that are vaccinated, the less people have to wear masks. I think it would benefit everyone.”
Russell values the ability of students, staff and faculty to build relationships in-person through Baker’s small, liberal arts environment, which is difficult to achieve virtually.
“We are not some big online university, we are Baker University,” Russell said. “For us that means relationships with professors and students, working together in labs, art studios, music recital halls and classrooms. We need to be here and be together to be the type of community I think we ideally are. The way that is the safest for everyone, is for everyone to get vaccinated.”
As of Aug. 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. stated in a press release, “the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”
The Baker community can learn more about the FDA’s approval process of the Pfizer vaccine here, or obtain more vaccination information here.