On April 7, Beth Stapleton, Mississippi College’s Campus COVID Coordinator sent out an email announcing that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine would be available to students. Students were able to sign up online, and the single shot would be free. According to MC’s COVID Testing Coordinator, Mary Ellen Stewart, MC wanted to host a vaccination event “to help protect our students and campus.”
With vaccines scheduled for just a week later on April 14, the decision was made to offer the Pfizer vaccine rather than Johnson & Johnson in light of new findings. Just one day prior to vaccine administration, Stapleton sent out an email update informing students of the change. Stapleton cited, “Health experts say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine led to cases of extremely rare blood clotting for a small number of individuals across the USA after recently receiving the shots.” Fortunately, MC was able to obtain sufficient Pfizer vaccines in order to continue with the vaccination administration event as planned.
In order to facilitate vaccination administration, MC partnered with the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center. This safeguarded that vaccinations remained free to students. MC nursing students administered the shots, and healthcare workers from Baptist helped with paperwork. This ensured vaccines were given safely and with the proper legal documentation. On April 14, the first day of vaccination administration, over 125 students got their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was initially selected “because it is a one dose vaccine,” Stewart explained. “We could get the vaccine to all the students before finals. We were worried that there wouldn’t be enough time to get two doses of the vaccine in before the end of the semester.”
Luckily, the fallout from switching to Pfizer has been minimal. Stewart remarked, “We were initially worried about people not coming back for their second doses, but the sign-ups have been great. I don’t think it will be a problem. Just about everybody we talked to today has said they’ll still be on campus.” Mississippi Baptist Medical Center had sufficient doses of Pfizer on hand so that the event could continue as planned.
Looking ahead, there is nothing to indicate that MC will require a COVID vaccine in order for students to return in the fall. Stewart emphasized, “We strongly suggest that you get it for your own protection, but nothing that I know of has been made mandatory at this point.”
Regarding COVID vaccinations as a whole, Stewart stressed, “The main thing you need to know is that the vaccine has proven itself to be safe so far. If you are afraid of it, that’s understandable. Just don’t let your fear keep you from getting the shot if it will truly protect you and those around you.”