I am very lucky.
On-campus at my university, I work as a student advisor at one of our dining halls, and technically, I am considered to be an essential worker.
It's strange to think about though because I don't think of my job on campus as being essential to the community. But because of the pandemic, food services really are necessary.
I haven't been home since the beginning of the semester, and my mom and I made a promise that our whole family would try to get completely vaccinated before I came home for the first time this year. My mom is also a front-line worker, and over the last couple of months, she has had to treat cancer patients that became COVID positive. She has instilled in me the importance of masking-up to reduce the spread and being considerate of others' health as well as my own. I also live with my immuno-compromised 86-year-old grandmother, and so it became imperative that I protect myself in order to protect her.
Over the course of the first few months of quarantine, my mother emphasized social distancing and repeatedly reiterated that if I were to infect my grandma, the guilt and devastation of complications that spurred from her testing positive would be unimaginable.
Besides this, I took the pandemic very seriously. And although I have been on campus both semesters of this school year, I thought it best to try and live out some form of college life while I can, even if it was different and more difficult than what it had been like before.
This semester, my roommate and I were both given the opportunity to get vaccinated.
It is rare for anyone in our age group to get vaccinated, as older people and front-line workers are the main groups that are being targeted right now.
The excitement that we both had of being able to not only protect ourselves but also our families and friends was unimaginable. It was an immense blessing.
Knowing that we would at least be somewhat protected that if we were to get infected and that the symptoms would be less dangerous was a sigh of relief.
As a student at the University of Illinois, although our COVID cases are very low here, there is always a sense of fear when receiving test results back. There are so many different ways to contract the virus since it is so contagious and because some people are asymptomatic, it is hard knowing when you actually have the virus.
It was difficult for us to celebrate our opportunity to get the vaccine because my roommate and I live in a dorm of ultra-conservative Catholics, and many of them are proudly anti-vaxxers.
Not all, but many.
As I have spoken about in previous articles, living in a dorm that is very much white and constricted to a singular group of like-minded people has been devastating for my roommate and I.
Coming to college, we both craved to experience diversity, and to meet people that are different from us. This was especially prevalent for me coming from a public high school that was very white and in a town that was primarily Republican.
it wasn't until this year however that we realized our mistake in living here in such a controversial time.
When we asked people if they were getting their vaccine, we received responses like, "Hell no, it isn't researched enough", "What if there are trackers in the vaccines", or "It isn't pro-life to get a vaccine because it could kill a fetus".
It was ridiculous.
While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, a lot of the claims that were being made were very bizarre and unresearched.
In reality, it turned out that my roommate and I were the only ones in our friend group getting the vaccine.
This was upsetting to realize, because our nation is encouraging people to get vaccinated for their own good, and if people don't get vaccinated, the pandemic will likely be prolonged indefinitely.
What's worse is that the people who are not getting vaccinated also think that masks are stupid and not necessary.
I believe that these people are going to be the cause of many issues ahead, as our nation strives to go back to what life was like before the pandemic.
I would like to take the opportunity that I have with this small platform to encourage everyone to get a vaccine if they qualify. I know that it is very difficult right now to do so because only a small portion of people are being vaccinated, and vaccination resources are scarce in some areas, but I think that vaccines are imperative to the end of this pandemic.
There may be a plethora of conspiracies that may provide ample excuses for not getting the vaccine, but if we are ever to return back to "normal", this is the only way that COVID-19 cases can be eradicated.
There are many claims that vaccines have not been effective in the past or that this particular COVID vaccine is not as effective because it was developed in a short period of time. There is also fear of the unresearched side effects that may surface years past getting the vaccine.
But as of right now, I think that if we are going to try and eliminate the virus for good, we all need to be vaccinated. There is no reason that the vaccine would lead to side effects because of its composition, and people are freaking a little bit too much of the future consequences.
It is important to realize how amazing and beautiful it is that a vaccine was developed less than a year after the virus reached the United States.
When I was getting my vaccine, I thought of how many people and all the hard work that had gone into me receiving the shot. Just thinking of all of the people that had to be involved was crazy. All the researchers, members of the preliminary trials, and all the coordination it took in shipping the vaccines out to everyone.
It was insane to think about.
I was proud to be receiving a vaccine that had really tested the boundaries of medical research and had pushed researchers to work against time in hoping to save as many lives as possible.
I thought of it as being a shield that was going to protect me.
What a beautiful thing to be thankful for.