As access to COVID-19 vaccines becomes increasingly available to Illinois residents 16 years of age and older, Huskies are sharing their reasons for getting vaccinated.
Many of NIU’s faculty and staff have already received a COVID-19 vaccine administered through the DeKalb County Public Health Department. More than 1,100 NIU employees received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic held at the Convocation Center on Thursday, March 18, and returned for their second dose of the vaccine on Thursday, April 8.
“It is really important that Huskies receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available,” says Chief of Staff Matt Streb. “The more Huskies who get vaccinated, the more likely we are to have a fall 2021 semester that looks a bit more normal.”
While it is likely that some of the guidelines outlined in Protecting the Pack will be in place during the fall semester, those who are vaccinated will be exempt from participating in weekly surveillance testing.
“Currently we plan to provide roughly 70% of classes face-to-face, allow students to have roommates in residence halls, offer more sit-down dining options and host more campus events during fall 2021,” continues Streb. “However, for those things to happen, Huskies need to continue following the guidelines outlined in Protecting the Pack and consider getting vaccinated when they are able.”
Getting vaccinated is a personal choice and Huskies are encouraged to consult with their healthcare providers and those whom they trust while making their decision. Individuals’ reasons for choosing to get vaccinated are just as personal.
“I have a unique perspective because I do have an educational background in community and public health, so I know the science; I know about epidemiology,” says Shondra Clay, assistant professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions. “However, I have a salient identity of being African American and a research area rooted in health disparities, so I also know the historical context of the impact and relationship of racial identity and health outcomes.”
“As I think about some of my reasons for getting the vaccine, I think about how this opportunity is bigger than me,” continues Clay. “To me, it’s about saving my life or another person’s life.”
Clay supports fellow Huskies getting vaccinated. “I would encourage fellow Huskies to get the vaccine to possibly protect another person’s life, for example, those that may be at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”
“I was initially hesitant as a result of the United States’ historical clinical experimentation on Black people, often without our knowledge or consent,” states Bernoudy. “However, my perspective changed based on two things: I recognized marginalized groups, especially Black and Brown, are adversely impacted by COVID-19 and I conducted my own research on the vaccines.”
For Bernoudy, the choice became simple.
“Getting the vaccine outweighs contracting a severe case of COVID. Knowledge became my power,” she says.
“While it is a personal choice, I think it’s wise for Huskies to get vaccinated to provide an enhanced level of safety for themselves, their families, friends and fellow Huskies,” continues Bernoudy. “We also have a population of young people and children who are unable to be vaccinated, and even if they are not living in our households, we have a responsibility to protect them by becoming vaccinated. They are vulnerable and represent our future.”
Looking to the future, Bernoudy is excited by what the vaccines represent.
“I’ve missed being able to engage with students and peers, attend events, and simply the energizing hustle and bustle of being on campus,” she says. “I’m looking forward to faculty, staff and students getting vaccinated so we can all return to the place we have missed.”
That sentiment is also what inspired Meg Junk, chief of staff for the Division of Student Affairs, to get the vaccine.
“I have really missed the energy on campus,” says Junk. “I miss seeing students in the MLK Commons, chatting with faculty and staff in the hallways after meetings and being able to fully engage with my colleagues and our students.”
“Unless a vast majority of us take steps to protect ourselves and others, it’s going to be difficult to get back on campus in a safe manner,” she says. “I would encourage people to get vaccinated so we can truly provide our students with the Huskie experience and serve them in the traditional ways they were accustomed to prior to the pandemic.”
Employees who have not yet received a vaccine but are interested can sign up through the DeKalb County Public Health Department.
Information, resources and frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines are available on the Protecting the Pack website. The State of Illinois Department of Public Health has a map of locations where vaccines are being offered by community to assist with finding a vaccination location within your local community.