One sign that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is near is that Carleton has recently moved into Phase 5 of its vaccination plan, meaning that all students, faculty and staff who are on campus can get vaccinated. In addition to this, many are travelling off campus to nearby cities to receive their vaccines. Over 60% of the student body has been vaccinated, and this can be observed in daily campus life: professors and students having to skip class due to post-vaccine side effects has become a norm.
“It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders,” Erin Watson ’24 said. “I’m relieved I got it, especially since I got the Johnson & Johnson before they paused it.”
Fiona Ibrahim ’24 added, “Right after [my vaccination], I felt excited because, ideally, people getting vaccinated is the main stepping stone to going back to regular life. Now, I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed than I did before since COVID-19 is less of a risk for me.”
Overall, students expressed excitement, relief and hope that campus life will soon return to normal. Considering the rapidly-increasing portion of the Carleton community that is getting vaccinated—along with President Poskanzer’s recent email saying that if everything goes according to plan, Carleton will mostly go back to normal in the fall—this optimism seems very much substantiated. Specifically, according to Poskanzer’s email, masks will no longer be a requirement and most classes and extracurricular activities will happen in person.
As exciting as getting the vaccine was, there were factors that made it stressful for some. “I was simultaneously relieved, excited and stressed immediately after. I was beyond grateful and thrilled to have gotten the vaccine. However, being off campus felt somewhat unsafe and scary,” said Brie Sloves ’24, who drove off campus to Mankato to get her vaccine.
Some who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were very understandably scared when the news came out that the Johnson & Johnson distribution had stopped because it caused blood clots in six individuals.
“I felt very excited after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s been a little over three weeks since I got it, but I’ll admit that my excitement about the vaccine quickly turned into panic when the vaccine distribution was paused and I was right in the middle of the 6-13 day blood clot window,” Olivia Lentz ’23 said.
The overarching general sentiment around getting vaccines is excitement about being able to go back to normal soon. However, students are still being mostly as cautious as they were before. With more activities being outdoors due to the changing weather, however, in addition to the rapid vaccination rate, it is now possible for students to gather in slightly larger groups without putting themselves or others at risk.
“I would say my behaviors have not changed drastically. I’ve definitely felt less ‘on alert’ at all times, but still I don’t dine-in at LDC or Burton, I’m taking all online classes and I keep my pod to about four people,” Lentz said.
Watson said that the prevailing feeling about being vaccinated against the disease that has upended life for the past year is relief. “I haven’t changed any behaviors yet, but I do feel a lot better about masked, medium-sized indoor gatherings. Honestly, the biggest difference is that I’m no longer stressed about getting quarantined, since that was always looming over my head as a big fear,” Watson said.
Ibrahim agreed, saying, “I’m not changing any behaviors too much. I think it’s important to stay cautious until more of campus is fully vaccinated.”
Despite the somewhat mixed feelings around getting the vaccine, especially considering various risk factors involved in both obtaining the vaccine and regarding the vaccines themselves as new information comes out, the strongest emotions on campus are excitement and joy. Each student receiving their vaccine brings us as a community one step closer to becoming protected from COVID-19.