Walking out the doors of Bartels Hall after receiving their first doses, some students danced with joy, others heaved sighs of relief and many simply continued on their way, treating it as just another stop on a busy day.
On April 23, the first day of the Wellness Weekend, the University administered the first dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine to nearly 700 students in Bartels Hall in partnership with Tompkins County Health Department and Cayuga Health.
Tammy Decker, a Cornell employee who works as a COVID-19 surveillance test administrator, was one of the people dancing. Decker was initially hesitant to get the vaccine due to her fear of needles, but was driven to get her shot after being away from her grandmother — who has end-stage dementia — for a year.
“You’ve just got to set your fear aside if you want to be around your loved ones,” Decker said. “Do it — while you get a little achy, it’s better than getting COVID; it’s better than having the real thing. So I’ll take whatever comes with this, and I will just keep on pushing.”
Jack Trinh ’21 was grateful for the support of the medical staff throughout the vaccination process and their efforts to address all of his concerns.
“The experience has been great — from the moment I came in here, I was greeted by the staff, everything went smoothly, the staff did it diligently, took time for me to go into all the questions, make sure everything was correct,” Trinh said. “I really commend the staff here for their overwhelming effort to help us with this program.”
Many students found the convenience of the clinic being on campus during a day-off to be an incentive to get their shot. According to Anne Jones ’04, Cornell Health Director of Medical Services and COVID Public Health Officer, the clinic dates were carefully planned to avoid conflicting with exams and normal class schedules.
“I work in a campus lab and it’s hard for me to travel elsewhere during workdays or weekends,” said Amy Tsai, grad. “I have friends who drove to Syracuse and Binghamton to get the vaccine but I was, like, ‘I’d just rather wait.’ I was really happy that they decided to do a pop-up on campus.”
Jules Nshimiye ’22, who is required to get vaccinated for his summer internship, found the Wellness Days to be a convenient time to get it done. While he was initially worried that side effects from the vaccine might affect his schoolwork, the Wellness Days provided a buffer period to recover and rest.
Nshimiye wanted to get vaccinated not just for his own health, but also to show those around him that the vaccine is safe.
“I have friends who are very skeptical. And so, if I didn’t take the vaccine, it would sort of reinforce that skepticism, ” said Nshimiye.
While the clinic only offered a first dose of the two-dose Moderna vaccine, vaccinated students were automatically scheduled for a second dose in the same clinic on May 25. Students unable to receive their second dose on that date can reschedule, according to the University statement announcing the event.
With vaccinations on the rise, students may be able to return to lecture halls and their favorite campus hubs in the fall. According to a University statement, the fall 2021 semester will continue with in-person instruction and normal capacity if enough of the Cornell community is vaccinated.
“We’re in this gray zone right now where we have some really good statistics that are very promising,” Jones said. “I think the high 30s, just under 40 percent — given where we are around vaccine supply which has been such a challenge — is actually a very promising figure.”
As of April 28, 45 percent of the current on-campus population has been fully vaccinated, according to Cornell’s COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard.
“Thank you to Cornell students for going through yet another semester of what has been a very difficult year. And difficult in so many ways, not just with COVID, but COVID revealing many inequities in our culture, and in our society and in our population,” said Jones. “I’m so grateful for the energy that the students have brought, and I hope that we can continue to deliver a program that helps support them.”