Mia Dzaferbegovic doesn’t like needles. Still, the sophomore business management major at Texas Tech University signed up for the first on-campus COVID-19 vaccine clinic earlier this month.
A nurse told her it’s just a “prick.”
“OK, OK. I just won’t look at it,” Dzaferbegovic said before she nervously laughed.
After the shot, over in seconds, she waited in a dim room with soothing music. Sitting for the required 15 minutes in case of an allergic reaction, she reflected on why she got the shot. Earlier this year, she tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Me and my family all had it together and the way it affected us wasn’t very fun,” she said. “I knew I definitely didn’t want to go through that again.”
As a student, Dzaferbegovic got a taste of the college experience before the university ended in-person classes last spring.
“They said no school for the rest of the year and it all went downhill from there,” she recalled.
But even after returning to campus, Dzaferbegovic said it’s not the same, and she’s ready to get back to normal. It’s why she signed up for the first COVID-19 vaccine available to her – the Johnson & Johnson shot.
Through a partnership with Lubbock-based grocery chain United Supermarkets, she was among 1,200 students, staff and faculty at the university to get the one-and-done vaccine that day.
“There seems to be a demand for that, especially in this demographic,” said Tim Purser, the director of pharmacies for United Supermarkets. “It makes sense for college-aged kiddos to come out once and get this done.”
He said it took a lot of planning to get the vaccination opportunity up and running in the United Supermarkets Arena on the Texas Tech campus. When the Johnson & Johnson shot became more widely available, the schedule filled up within a couple of days.
Which is exactly what experts hoped for. Dr. Craig Rhyne with Covenant Health said especially in cities like Lubbock, younger people will be a key demographic on the way to herd immunity. College-age people were a driving force behind community spread of the virus last year.
Still, Rhyne said multiple surveys have found at least some vaccine resistance among 18 to 24 year olds.
“What our college-aged students need to know is – and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough – the fastest road to normal is vaccination,” Rhyne said.
Rhyne encourages people to get whatever vaccine is available to them. But those options got fewer this week when federal officials ordered a “pause” of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations.
Of around 7 million doses given, six women between the ages of 18 and 48 have reported a rare, but serious, blood clot after getting that vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is analyzing data to figure out what’s next for the vaccine.
At Texas Tech, they also had to figure out what’s next for the on-campus vaccine clinic. It’s the latest challenge for the university’s COVID-19 Coordinator Meredith Imes.
“One of the common words for the pandemic with me is pivot,” Imes said. “Because things change and they can be different and look different day-to-day.”
She anticipated giving hundreds of more Johnson & Johnson shots during the clinics held every Thursday. For now, recipients will get a first dose of the Moderna vaccine instead. They’ve prepared for second doses, too. Imes hopes the change doesn’t deter anyone from getting the two-dose shot – especially students.
“I think that they understand that one of the quickest and easiest ways to get back to the things that they love is by getting this vaccine,” Imes said.
A week after she got the shot and a day after the Johnson & Johnson shot was halted, Dzaferbegovic said she wishes the possible side effect was caught sooner. But she’s keeping an eye out for symptoms and understands the risks are pretty minimal.
Disclosure: United Supermarkets and Texas Tech University have been financial supporters of Texas Tech Public Media, a nonprofit media organization. Those contributions do not affect our unbiased journalism.
Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.