A panel of researchers answered questions about the COVID-19 vaccine students from all eight Mississippi public universities submitted at a virtual town hall meeting Jackson State University coordinated and broadcasted on Facebook April 27.
“Our universities want to give students an opportunity to have their questions about the COVID-19 vaccines answered in hopes they will get vaccinated,” Casey Prestwood, the associate commissioner for academic and student affairs of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, said. “Having everyone in the campus community do their part and get vaccinated will enable our campuses to lift COVID-19 guidelines.”
Researchers included Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health, Samuel Jones, director of the Jackson State University Student Health Center, Clayton Whitehead, health communications specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Shanice White, Director of JSU’s Latasha Norman Center for Counseling Services.
Based on the students’ questions, survey results showed that 57 % of the 79 students included in the survey received their vaccines. It also revealed that 93.7 % of the universities offered an opportunity for their students to receive the vaccine.
As a collective unit, Mississippi has vaccinated around one million people, averaging about one-third of the population. Children below the age of 18 have not been vaccinated yet and take up another one-third of the population.
Students are questioning the validity and trustworthiness of the COVID-19 vaccine because of stigmas surrounding the vaccine. Dobbs stated there has been more hesitancy among the Afican American population due to the remembrance of the Tuskegee trials in the 20th century.
Questions proceeded to focus on which vaccines in the market are better as well as their effectiveness.
Dobbs goes on to say that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the most effective and should last six months to a year after injection. The chance of contracting COVID and becoming hospitalized drops tremendously when injected with the vaccine.
Given the new variants of the COVID-19 strain, Dobbs predicts another booster shot in order to maintain resistance.
All panel members agreed that as school will open next semester, students can still have the option to take hybrid or online classes. Social distancing and mask wearing will be encouraged as well. Additionally, free testing and vaccinations will also be offered to all students and is highly encouraged.
White said that next semester, students will receive more opportunities to meet with mental health professionals to help them better acclimate to this new transition.
The panel also agreed that even if people do have both COVID-19 vaccines, it is safer to continue to wear masks in indoor and outdoor settings where there is a large crowd i.e sports games, parades and concerts.
“If we want to get to the finish line, we have to get people vaccinated,” Dobbs said.