On March 10, Minnesota’s Health Department announced that all Minnesotans, regardless of current eligibility, are encouraged to register with the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector site to receive early contact when doses are available at sites statewide. This is in addition to last week’s unveiling of their newest plan for COVID-19 vaccine rollout, starting with this winter’s initiative to have all healthcare and childcare personnel as well as 65+ individuals vaccinated, and ending with access for the general public in the summer. With increasing access to the vaccine, many SPA community members and their families have been able to feel some peace of mind about this pandemic coming to an end.
Senior Pilar Saavedra-Weis’s father is a critical care doctor who has been working with COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic in Minnesota. As a physician in the fight against the coronavirus, her father was in one of the early cohorts to receive the vaccine.
“Having my dad vaccinated has relieved some stress from my family as we feel as though we don’t have to worry so much about his wellbeing at work every day. It’s been nice to know he is a lot safer,” Saavedra-Weis said.
Her grandparents also received their first dose of the vaccine this week as they are above the age of 65, and she is looking forward to receiving the vaccine herself soon.
“I have not yet been vaccinated but I am 100% planning on it when it becomes available to me,” Saavedra-Weis said. “I would get it as soon as possible and I am hopeful that Biden’s announcement that there will be enough doses for everyone by the end of May is accurate.”
Sophomore Linnea Cooley also has not been vaccinated yet, but is hoping to sometime this spring or summer much like Saavedra-Weis. Despite the vaccine being currently unavailable to her personally, Cooley has still experienced its benefits as her grandparents have been fully vaccinated due to their age as well as high-risk health issues.
“The main upside to having my grandparents vaccinated is that we can visit them without having to worry about getting them sick. I think it’s also alleviated some of their stress about being extremely cautious,” Cooley said.
Cooley also had the chance to experience the process of vaccination receival first hand because of her grandparents.
“My grandfather was able to get vaccinated at a nearby hospital, and it was very efficient,” Cooley said. “My grandma is in a lower age group, so my mom and I had to drive her to Red Lake Falls, five hours north, to get her vaccine. Other than the drive, it was incredibly easy and just like getting an annual flu shot.”
As well as grandparents, teachers have recently been able to get the vaccine en masse as St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools plan to reopen this spring. With SPA in hybrid for much of the year and a move to four days a week Feb. 22, this increased vaccine availability has been a sigh of relief for several faculty members, including teacher Cathleen Drilling.
“I have been vaccinated, as well as a lot of the teachers here at SPA have been vaccinated. And my teaching friends from Minneapolis Public Schools, most of them have been vaccinated. For the most part I would say teachers have jumped on it because the return to school has happened for us and for public schools it is happening. So, people are just trying to be as protected and safe as possible,” Drilling said.
Although being vaccinated has brought some comfort to Drilling, it’s still hard to know when everything will feel normal again, especially with her parents and parents-in-law also vaccinated.
“It’s really hard to know. [Mr. Lakin and I] were actually just talking about this this morning, like, how do you know when it’s over? I still have plenty of family members and friends who have not been vaccinated, so I guess that means I haven’t changed my behavior hardly at all. I guess I’m waiting for more people to get to that level. There has been discussion, like, can we see Mr. Lakin’s parents for a meal? But indoors even, it’s just so weird. I feel like everyone’s kind of waiting for something clear to say, like, yes that’s okay,” Drilling said.
Despite the still muddy uncertainty of whether we will return to normalcy anytime soon, Drilling was extremely impressed with the organization and efficacy of Minnesota’s vaccine rollout system.
For her vaccination appointment, Drilling, as well as many other educators, was called to the Mall of America to receive her first dose of a two dose vaccine cycle. Inside, a controlled line was assembled with volunteers and officials moving down the queue to ensure that everyone waiting had the required paperwork and documentation. At the end of the line was a series of small stations, each with a professional nurse, where everyone waiting was eventually vaccinated. According to Drilling, the entire experience was quick and professional.
Drilling said, “Everyone’s excited to be there; everyone’s happy to be there. It’s super organized, it’s super clear, everyone’s happy to get the result—it’s just a really fabulous experience. And it was so well organized. I was in and out in like under a half an hour. And 15 minutes of that was for the observation period where they want to make sure that you respond okay before you leave. So, most of it was just sitting and waiting for that time to pass.”
This opportunity comes as an exciting and impressive experience for Drilling, who has been teaching students in biology about the technology behind the COVID-19 vaccine ever since its announcement late last year.
“I think I was a little worried whenever we started talking about vaccines in class and we looked at the data on how many people were getting vaccinated, it wasn’t so impressive, but it’s really picked up steam. They’ve got websites and signup systems and sites all organized amazingly fast, let alone the whole invention of the vaccine, also amazingly fast,” said Drilling. “So, yeah, one year in, and I can’t believe we’re here. I feel like this is pretty good. And, also, can [the pandemic] be over please?”
Updated information about the vaccine rollout and eligibility can be found on the MDH Situation Update page.
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