With vaccine rollout steadily increasing across Minnesota in the last month, Macalester has begun an effort to track vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Infectious Disease Task Force co-chairs Paul Overvoorde and Steph Walters emailed the campus community with an update on this effort.
Macalester is currently tracking campus vaccination rates by asking community members who have been vaccinated to report that in a survey. Overvoorde and Walters also noted that the college is working with Ramsey County Public Health to identify vaccination opportunities for those who are eligible.
In an email to The Mac Weekly, Overvoorde wrote that 110 people reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccine as of March 1 — 55 students, 39 staff members and 16 faculty members.
So far, Minnesota is offering vaccinations to health care workers, long-term care residents, preschool through high school educators, child care workers and people over the age of 65. As of March 3, 16.7% of Minnesota residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.
Macalester’s EMTs, who work in-person shifts on campus, were able to get their first doses last week. Several other students working in health care have also been vaccinated.
Isabel Meyer-Muller ’21 recently found a chance to get a vaccine. Before the pandemic hit, Meyer-Mueller was volunteering at a hospice center. Earlier this winter, the center reached out and notified her that if she signed up to return to her in-person volunteer position, she would be eligible for a vaccine.
“I definitely was excited when I got that email,” Meyer-Mueller said.
Meyer-Mueller got her first dose in early February and her second this week. In two weeks, she’ll be able to volunteer again.
Will Marsh ’23 found a similar chance to get in line for a vaccine. Marsh has been volunteering this winter with the Ramsey County Medical Reserve Corps in a nonmedical role assisting with vaccine distribution. When rounds of vaccinations have doses left over, nonmedical volunteers on the state’s waiting list are eligible to receive those. Marsh was able to get off that waiting list in January.
Getting vaccinated doesn’t entirely eliminate the risk of spreading COVID-19, so students say they are still following their regular habits of social distancing. Meyer-Mueller has one housemate who’s vaccinated and one who isn’t yet.
“Nothing has really changed so far,” Meyer-Mueller said. “I still don’t go out to restaurants and I always wear a mask, things like that… it definitely hasn’t changed a lot of my day-to-day practices.”
Even so, students who are vaccinated say that they’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m definitely less nervous about myself getting infected or infecting loved ones and people that I’m around, so I think I have a new peace of mind,” Meyer-Mueller said. “Once more of my friends and family are getting vaccinated, I think that’s when I’ll feel more comfortable doing less socially-distant things.”
Marsh hopes that those who can get vaccinated take advantage of that opportunity. Epidemiologists have recommended that anyone offered a vaccine should get one.
“I felt some guilt when I got my first dose thinking about all the people who deserved to be vaccinated more than I did, but it helped to think about how receiving the vaccine is for the benefit of others too,” Marsh wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.
Case counts at Macalester and across Minnesota have dipped lower this semester after spiking in November and December. In their email to the Macalester community, Overvoorde and Walters emphasized the continued importance of following Macalester’s COVID-19 guidelines.
“We remain grateful for your continued practice of public health strategies that minimize the spread of the virus,” Walters and Overvoorde wrote. “By protecting ourselves we also help to protect those who are at highest risk for severe consequences of viral infection.”