As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, a variety of Valpo students, faculty and staff have been among the first in the world to receive their doses. 

Allison Stanley ‘21 studies nursing at Valpo and is involved in the Nurse Fellow Program at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, Ind. The program employs nursing students, allowing them to do CNA work and supervised nursing tasks with licensed RNs. 

The symptoms Stanley experienced from taking the vaccine were minimal. After the first dose, she had a headache and very mild injection-site soreness. 

“The injection is given in your shoulder muscle, your deltoid, so there was a little bit of soreness . . . but nothing that warranted me seeing a doctor or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen or Tylenol,” Stanley said.

Stanley was able to complete her registration online prior to her appointment and said the process was well-organized and quick. 

Stanley noted that her grandparents were reluctant to get the vaccine, but that she encouraged them to take their physician’s advice. 

“My suggestion to them was to listen to their general doctor or physician,” she said. “If you don’t have one, try to use Telehealth so you can get a professional recommendation based on your specific circumstance and to ensure that the reasoning you’re not choosing to take the vaccine is made using science, based on fact, not based on Facebook.” 

Audrey Garcia, a Healthcare Leadership student working on her master’s degree, had a similar experience to Stanley when it came to taking the vaccine. She is a pharmacy technician at CVS and is currently being trained to administer COVID vaccines and tests. Her only symptom after receiving her two doses of the Pfizer vaccine was fatigue. 

“The actual vaccination process was really organized. I felt like I was a part of something bigger than me,” Garcia said. “It was like I was getting a flu shot. It wasn’t scary at all.”

Natalie Muskin-Press, Assistant Director of OADE and SAAFE, received her doses as a licensed healthcare worker. 

“As a SAAFE advocate, I need to be available to students who are in crisis. That could be in the hospital, and I’m still doing the occasional workshop in person,” Muskin-Press said. 

Everyone interviewed said they feel safer doing their jobs now that they’re vaccinated and it feels like a weight has been lifted. 

“For me it symbolizes the start of moving forward,” Muskin-Press said. 

Gianna Mickolayck ‘21 is a nursing assistant at Northwest Health Porter. 

“This has been such a terrible time to be working even if you don’t have any interaction with COVID patients because the hospitals are so packed -- everybody’s so short-staffed,” Mickolayck said. “Getting the vaccine makes everything feel more relaxed and like there might be an end to this nightmare soon.” 

Mickolayck said her second dose stood out to her. 

“It was super cool because it was all nurses getting their second doses. People were crying and hugging and it was one of the best experiences of my life,” Micholayck said. 

Olivia Recker ‘21 is a unit assistant in postpartum recovery at Northwest Health. After having both her doses and a low-grade fever, she is fully vaccinated and feels safer doing her job. 

“Trust the process and believe in science,” Recker said. “They wouldn’t release it if it wasn’t safe.”

Lizzie Heisler ‘21 is a nurse technician at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, Ind. Her main focus is encouraging everyone to take the vaccine when they’re eligible. According to Heisler, the symptoms of the vaccine are a lot less severe than catching COVID naturally. 

“I would take the side effects and a little cold over getting COVID and ending up in the ICU on a ventilator any day, because you will never be the same if you end up having to do that,” Heisler said. 

Everyone interviewed for this article received the Pfizer vaccine and noted similar side effects of slight headaches, injection-site soreness, low-grade fevers and/or fatigue. All pointed out that these symptoms are nothing out of the ordinary a person would experience in a normal day. 

For example, Heisler said, “After my second dose, I definitely felt a little more tired and I got a headache, but also I get headaches because I don’t drink enough water and honestly it wasn’t any different than what I would normally experience.”

Additionally, Stanley offered advice to the Valpo community as it continues to navigate the pandemic. 

“Be aware that if there’s one person in your bubble who’s in another one, you’re exposing yourself to another group of people,” Stanley said. 

“Keep your heads down and continue doing what the CDC and health authorities are directing us to do so we don’t put our faculty, classmates, roommates, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, etc. at risk,” Stanley continued. “We need to really look out for each other during this time.”

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