As of Tuesday, March 2, the state of New Jersey has administered over 1.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, with over 14% of the state population receiving at least one dose. Currently in phase 1B, vaccine distribution is focused on first responders, healthcare workers, the elderly, the immunocompromised and other priority individuals. This group has included some NJIT students.
Srijan Thota, a second year biochemistry major, is a volunteer with an EMT squad in Union County, qualifying him for phase 1A vaccine access. He received two doses of the vaccine in one of the county’s vaccine distribution sites in Elizabeth. “They were very organized, keeping you at a six foot distance the whole time” noted Thota. The process of showing identification, health screening, administering the vaccine took only 10 minutes when receiving his first dose and 20 when receiving his second, with the extra 10-minute wait primarily due to the center needing to thaw out another batch of vaccines. Patients were required to wait an additional 15-minute observation period to monitor for allergic reactions.
Gautum Mereddy, a second year biology major, had a similar path to vaccination. As a volunteer line attendant with the Essex Community College vaccine distribution center, Mereddy was also eligible for phase 1A vaccination. Mereddy described his work as a “managing the amount of people coming in and out to maintain both the social distancing and to ensure that the registration is not overwhelmed.” He described the vaccination center as remarkably efficient especially compared to other sites in the area. “I remember on my first shift, one of the people said he actually went to [the East Rutherford mega-site for his first shot], he was complaining that there were lines going out of the center itself.” He credits this efficiency to the large number of volunteers, especially student volunteers that ECC had access to from the surrounding colleges.
Mereddy noted relatively mild side effects for both doses. he said the only effect he had experienced included a sore arm. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Thota. His first dose resulted in a fever of 99 degrees as well as migraines lasting two days. After his second dose, he developed a persistent cough over the next three weeks. “I didn’t have a pleasant experience with the vaccine personally, but I know a lot of people they just cruise by.”
Though it does seem that we are quite a way away from returning to some semblance of normal life, these vaccinations do give some hope. As per Gautum Mereddy “As someone who’s worked in a vaccination center, there’s a lot of people coming in which is great to see. I’m hopeful that people will begin getting vaccinated at a rate that is necessary to achieve herd immunity by the summer. Whether or not that is tangible is hard to say. But I’m hopeful we’ll reach a good amount of people being vaccinated.”