MU students share relief after receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Claire Rothman, Clara Herrs and Anna Mae Williams reveal how the COVID-19 vaccine has impacted their lives.

Claire Rothman

Claire Rothman said receiving her second dose of the coronavirus vaccine Jan. 24 lifted a weight from her shoulders.

Rothman, an MU freshman who studies human development and family science, was eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine due to her job with MU Health Care and her list of preexisting health conditions. Rothman’s epilepsy and fibromyalgia have been particularly concerning for her since the start of the pandemic. But after receiving the vaccine, she said she has navigated life on campus more freely.

“Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can sometimes be caused by an underlying autoimmune disorder, and given my other health conditions and medications, I honestly don’t know how badly COVID could affect me,” Rothman said.

Before getting the vaccine, she said she was wary of traveling around campus and outside her dorm. Even when walking alone outside, she made sure to keep her mask on at all times.

“Now it’s a little bit nicer,” Rothman said. “When I’m not walking past other people, I’ll take [the mask] down just so I can breathe better. But it’s less scary touching things like door handles than it was before.”

Rothman said that despite the challenges of being on MU’s campus, it has been a relief for her, too. Both her mom and sister have autoimmune diseases that put them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, so visiting home in Burke, Virginia would increase Rothman’s chances of giving her family the virus.

Rothman has not seen her family since before she received the vaccine, but her mom has also been vaccinated, which Rothman said has eased some of her anxieties.

“It’s a nice load off my shoulders knowing [it’s more likely that] I can’t get sick, I can’t give it to them, and that they’re a little bit more protected,” Rothman said. “So it’s a nice thing that I don’t have to stress about that.”

Many MU Health Care employees have been vaccinated since doses arrived in December. Rothman received both injections of the COVID-19 vaccine in the basement of University Hospital. Rothman said MU Health Care sent out a survey for her and other employees to fill out to determine their risk and how soon they could get vaccinated.

Though she was hired in February as a patient service representative for MU Health Care’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic, Rothman started out as a door screener in August, taking the temperatures of visitors at the hospital entrances.

“It was scary, I’m not going to lie. There’s a lot of people who do come in without face masks, don’t wear it properly, etc.,” Rothman said. “I had to put my fears aside because I knew doing it made other people safer. And if I got sick, I would rather I get sick than somebody in the hospital who’s on some sort of life support or something like that.”

Rothman said that every day at work, she followed COVID-19 safety measures and frequently used hand sanitizer in hopes that she would limit her risk of getting sick.

“I would feel awful giving [the virus] to somebody else,” Rothman said.

Rothman said she did not have any reservations about getting the vaccine.

“I trust the scientists who worked on the vaccines and the FDA to create a safe vaccine, so there was no doubt in my mind that the COVID-19 vaccine would be safe,” Rothman said.

Because she believes that the vaccine is important in order to be safe during this time, Rothman said she hopes that people will overcome any reservations and get vaccinated.

“Even if you know you may not get sick, you don’t know about everybody else,” Rothman said. “So it’s not only protecting yourself but protects others.”

Clara Herrs

Before MU freshman Clara Herrs received the Pfizer vaccine in January, she knew there was a strong chance of contracting COVID-19 at work.

Herrs is a safety monitor for MU Health Care at University Hospital. Her station varies with each shift. Sometimes she is assigned to a video monitoring room, where she observes patients to make sure that they are not engaging in activities that could harm themselves or others. In some instances, Herrs must sit in a room with one or two patients to prevent any self-harming behaviors.

“I was aware that I was likely exposed [to the virus] almost every shift,” Herrs said. “But I wasn’t super concerned about it just because we have to follow the same guidelines with our masks and social distancing and handwashing.”

Herrs said she was comforted that she was often placed in the video monitoring room, which limited direct contact with patients.

Since getting vaccinated, though, Herrs said her worries about COVID-19 have generally relaxed.

“I wish I could take my mask off, but I know that I don’t want to make others uncomfortable, of course, and I know [the vaccine] is not 100% effective,” Herrs said. “I don’t want to run that risk either.”

Herrs said she had intense symptoms following her vaccination. She did not have any side effects or illness after the first dose besides basic muscle soreness. Soon after receiving the second dose, however, Herrs said she developed flu-like symptoms including chills, fever, nausea, vomiting and fatigue that all subsided within 12 hours.

“I survived,” Herrs said. “Nothing’s gone wrong. Just make sure you follow the recommendations. You probably will experience symptoms, but as long as you can get through those symptoms, you’ll be fine and you’ll be protected.”

Herrs said that before getting the vaccine, she was concerned by how new it was — but that did not stop her from signing up for an appointment.

“I wasn’t overly concerned,” Herrs said. “I figured if it had passed [FDA approval], it passed, so it was ready to go.”

Anna Mae Williams

For Anna Mae Williams, receiving the Pfizer vaccine meant she was no longer as likely to spread COVID-19 while working at a nursing home.

Williams, an MU freshman who studies speech, language and hearing sciences, was excited to be able to get vaccinated at Faurot Field in January and February due to her job at Sunrise Senior Living in St. Louis. Williams worked at the nursing home over winter break and plans to return after the spring semester concludes in May.

Though Williams is not yet a certified nursing assistant, she helps the nursing home residents with whatever they need, whether it be going to the bathroom or getting dressed in the morning. Williams said that because she worked this job amid a pandemic, she often found herself terrified on the job.

“It was really nerve-racking because I didn’t want to get [the residents] sick,” Williams said.

Williams said that while she was working over winter break, one of the floors at the nursing home had to go on lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“I was so nervous that I was going to get it or just spread it around to [residents],” Williams said. “It was scary. It will definitely be easier now that I have the vaccine and a lot of residents just got the vaccine. Hopefully, that will make things a little bit safer there.”

Following the first dose of the vaccine, Williams said she couldn’t hang up her coat the next day due to severe arm soreness, but that it was worth it.

Williams said more people should consider getting vaccinated. She emphasized the relief she feels now that she doesn’t have to worry about missing class or getting friends and family members sick.

“It just takes a burden off your shoulders,” Williams said.

Edited by Sophie Chappell | schappell@themaneater.com

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