Students share differing thoughts on COVID-19 vaccine

Kellen Brandt, features reporter

This March marks a year since life was what was once called “normal”. Pre-masks, pre-uncertainty and pre-COVID-19 on our minds.
The world was asked to navigate a whole new world last spring, the United States largely beginning to see COVID last March. This March, the world is being asked to navigate life with a vaccine.
Winona State University students expressed their feelings on COVID and the vaccine, specifically as they go into their fields for research, clinicals, student teaching and are surrounded by other students on and off-campus.
Nicole Tompos, a fourth-year student majoring in communication arts and literature teaching, is currently student teaching online at Mayo High School in Rochester, Minn.
Mayo High School has been online for the entire school year, working with students online, but has plans to move to in-person on April 5.
Tompos is not vaccinated yet but seeks opportunities to receive the vaccine by putting herself on waiting lists wherever she can.
“I would like to have at least my first shot before I have to go in-person,” Tompos said. “I’m scared to enter into that environment with so little protection.”
Tony Watts, a third-year nursing major, is currently vaccinated and doing his nursing clinicals at Mayo Hospital, having received his vaccination through Winona State.
Watts said he still felt comfortable going to clinicals prior to being vaccinated due to previously having COVID in August, knowing the likelihood of being infected again was low.
Watts said he was a “little hesitant about getting the vacc- ine” due to the lack of knowledge on long-term effects and the vaccine’s emergency approval through the FDA.
“I received the vaccine not for myself, but for the health and wellbeing of my patients,” Watts said.

Joe Garber, a fourth-year student majoring in composite materials engineering, spends every day on campus in a lab and feels comfortable there without the vaccine.
“I feel completely comfortable on campus without a vaccine,” Garber said. “Between research, work, labs and projects, there is a lot of safety practices in place that do provide safety without inhibiting work more than necessary.”
Garber is not vaccinated and has not yet been offered the vaccine and says he does not have much of an opinion on the vaccine.
“I would like to see some relaxation of COVID protections once the vaccine is widespread though,” Garber said.
For Tompos, she hopes for more protection in her situation not only for herself but also for her students.
“It will be impossible to follow safety guidelines in classes, so whatever leg up I can get before sitting in a small classroom with 32 students, I want to have,” Tompos said. “I’m also scared for the students, but I only have “control” over my own vaccination.”
Students with different commitments to campus and housing in Winona have differing views on vaccination.
Mikayla Cup, a second-year student majoring in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood and a minor in reading instruction, serves as the Sophomore Seat for Student Senate and meets virtually for Student Senate meetings.
Cup is not vaccinated and is interested in getting the vaccine but said she is “in no hurry to get it.”
Cup lives off-campus and chooses to not go out much to follow COVID guidelines and protocols strictly.
“I have had the coronavirus as well, so I am not as worried,” Cup said. “For me personally, I had a headache and quarantined for two weeks; it wasn’t as bad as it has been for many others.”
Cup feels as if Winona State is doing its best to keep the community and campus safe.
“I would say they are doing more than enough to let people know about the vaccine,” Cup said. “As students, we get emails daily updating us on the vaccine and COVID responses on campus.”
Kayce Redican, a third-year student majoring in elementary and early childhood education with a coaching minor and serving as a Resident Assistant (RA) in the Quad, said she has mixed emotions about Winona State’s communication with the students.
“I feel like they only tell us information when they have to,” Redican said. “They are doing good but then at the same time, I don’t feel supported like we should and used to feel supported.”
Aside from Winona State’s lack of communication, Redican also feels as if they have unrealistic expectations of their RA’s.
“From a housing perspective, specifically, it’s been a lot harder than it typically is during a normal school year with everything being virtual,” Redican said. “The university wants us to connect with residents, but I feel like I was getting burnt out because I’m trying to find a way, but I don’t know how to actually connect with them when I can’t see them.”
Redican is not vaccinated yet but hopes for the vaccine soon through Winona State.
“I submitted my name to get the vaccine and I have not heard any information about it, but they did say to stay tuned for the next couple of weeks and to keep a lookout on your email,” Redican said. “So, I have very high hopes that it will be very soon.”
The vaccine is being offered to people working on housing such as resident assistants’, housing tour guides and other students working on campus with direct exposure to others.
“I’m hoping it’s soon for housing staff and by the sounds of it right now, it will be in the near future,” Redican said. “It sounds like within the next couple of weeks or months we will be getting the vaccine.”
Vaccinations for the community are off-campus, but for Winona State the university is offering them and inoculating students in the McCowan gymnasium.
In contrast to Cup and Redican, Tompos said she is not paying as much attention as to what Winona State is doing and is focusing more on the high school she is student teaching at, but still has opinions on what Winona State has been doing.
“I think removing Spring Break this semester was a mistake because burn-out is so incredibly real during this pandemic,” Tompos said. “That break is sorely needed, though I understand not having it to try and prevent travel.”
While Tompos would not benefit from the Winona State Spring Break as she follows the schedule of the Mayo High School, she still feels for the students missing a Spring Break.
“Taking Spring Break away feels like a punishment for those already struggling rather than that discouragement of travel,” Tompos said.
While old plans for Spring Break and the newer vaccine rollout seem to have little in common, they seem to go hand-in-hand with students’ feelings on the vaccine and with COVID in general.
Watts is also frustrated with the way Winona State has handled COVID and feels as if they are treating information with the vaccine the same way.
“I feel as though WSU has handled COVID mediocrely,” Watts said. “I was expecting things to be much more organized.”
While the world is ever-changing, students are doing their best to navigate this pandemic and do what they can to get out on the other side.
“We’re just trying to keep positive and keep our hopes up to get that vaccine,” Redican said.