Some members of the Seton Hall community are beginning to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccines as distribution to eligible groups continues in New Jersey and New York.
Over 41 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of Sunday, 9.2% of New Jersey’s population had received at least one dose of one of the available COVID-19 vaccines, with 2.4% fully vaccinated. New Jersey was ranked 27th in states with the most shots given, with Alaska, West Virginia and nearby Connecticut topping the list.
Among those receiving the vaccines are Seton Hall University staff members.
The Rev. John Ranieri, a Professor of Philosophy at Seton Hall and New Jersey resident, received his first dose of vaccine on Jan. 27 at the Mary Mcleod Bethune Life Center in Jersey City.
“I help out in a parish on the weekends in Jersey City, so that made me eligible,” Ranieri said. “It was a same-day appointment.”
In New Jersey, vaccination appointments are currently available to healthcare personnel, long-term care staff and residents, first responders and individuals who are at a higher risk of illness or infection. High risk individuals include those who are 65 and older as well as those ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions that increase the risk of severe sickness, including obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and smoking.
Clergy members who participate in healthcare settings are considered healthcare personnel and are currently eligible for vaccination in New Jersey.
Professor Edgar Valdez, who teaches philosophy at Seton Hall and is a New York resident, received a vaccine at Hillcrest High School in Queens on Jan 28. Valdez was vaccinated on the same day in-person higher education professors became eligible for vaccination in New York.
“In some ways, I was lucky,” Valdez said. “Later that afternoon, I tried to get appointments for my grandparents, and logging into the system was straightforward, but it became very difficult to find an appointment.”
Those currently eligible for a vaccine in New York include healthcare workers, people age 65 and over, first responders, teachers, public transit workers, grocery store workers and public safety workers.
“I wish that teachers had been in the first category since we are in enclosed spaces for extended periods of time,” Ranieri said regarding eligibility in New Jersey. “Unlike half of the other states in the country that are making vaccines accessible to teachers, New Jersey has not done so, so far, and I think that’s a mistake.”
Dr. Angela Weisl, chair of Seton Hall’s Department of English and resident of New York is currently waiting for her vaccination, which she will receive at the Javits Center in New York City.
Weisl said she searched for appointment availabilities for over two weeks before securing one on Jan. 29.
“It seemed very disorganized,” Weisl said about the city, state, and auxiliary websites she visited daily in search of vaccination appointments. “I should not have had to answer over 20 questions and fill in my insurance information every single day.”
The COVID-19 vaccines developed by companies like Moderna and Pfizer have been noted for the speed at which they were developed and released under emergency use authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration. Since vaccinations began, some have mentioned this speed in their concerns about possible post-injection side effects.
According to the CDC, side effects of the Moderna vaccine include chills, tiredness, headache, and pain in the area of injection. These side effects are said to have been common but are mostly mild to moderate in clinical trial patients.
The CDC advises those who experience any immediate allergic reactions to the ingredients of a messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccine to avoid receiving this vaccination.
“I think it’s important that we normalize hesitations,” Valdez said, citing a decline in public trust in pharmaceutical companies. “I don’t think it makes sense to admonish or criticize people for their hesitations.”
Despite the fast development of the vaccines, the CDC has insisted that the vaccines are both safe and effective.
“If doctors and nurses are getting the vaccine, that is probably a good sign that it’s safe,” Ranieri said. “I’ve never had any sort of anaphylactic shock from any sort of shot, and I have allergies.”
The Biden administration has announced multiple new initiatives aimed at accelerating vaccine distribution, including the deployment of approximately 1,000 troops to assist at vaccination sites.
“[Vaccine distribution in New York City] has certainly gotten more organized since the new administration came in,” Weisl said. “There was suddenly a big influx of doses in significant numbers and new sites opened up.”
“I’m glad we have a new administration at the federal level to expedite the delivery of the vaccine and take it with greater seriousness than the previous administration,” Ranieri said.
Currently, over 26 million cases of COVID-19 and over 456,000 COVID-related deaths have been counted in the United States.
Louis Motta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org