Students react to local vaccine efforts

A return to normalcy may be on the horizon for students at FAU, but how do they feel about the way it might happen?


Dylan Hobbs-Fernie, Contributing Writer

Silence reigns across the Breezeway.

The usual noise and atmosphere are now a distant memory for returning students on campus. Gone are the days of crowded tables and blaring music as students travel from class to class. Students now travel in noticeable silence, the only noise present being the shuffling of feet and the rare conversations between students traveling to class together.

Junior Francklin Francois said that the campus itself may be open but what is missing is campus life.

With the campus being closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a beacon of hope seems to appear for those at FAU looking to return to some sense of normalcy.

On March 11, President Joe Biden announced that all adults, 18 and older, would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination by May 1, 2021. In a later announcement, Biden said that the United States is on pace to surpass 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations by April 23.

The vaccination process for Palm Beach County started earlier this year and students at FAU have mixed opinions on the roll-out thus far.

Marcela Pullas, a graduating senior at FAU, categorized Palm Beach County’s efforts as good but was critical, saying the county was not encouraging enough of its citizens to go get vaccinated.

“There aren’t enough doses for our county,” said Pullas. This has put more stress on those looking to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

As of March 22, only certain groups of people are eligible for vaccination in Palm Beach County according to the Florida Department of Health.

The Florida Department of Health reports that long term care residents and facilities staff, those who are 50 years of age or older, healthcare workers with direct patient contact, K-12 school employees 50 years of and older, sworn law enforcement officers as well as firefighters 50 years of age and older, and last those who are “extremely vulnerable to COVID-19,” are currently eligible for vaccination.

Fellow graduating senior Shanay Thompson shared a higher opinion of the work Palm Beach County has done to distribute the vaccine. Thompson rated the vaccine roll-out an “8 out of 10” and said she would not change how the county has distributed the vaccine thus far.

Stephanie Tobar, a sophomore, categorized Palm Beach County’s vaccine roll-out as bad, citing difficulties in making an appointment to receive a COVID vaccination.

Freshman Zoe Spodek said the vaccine roll-out, “Could be better, but I can’t complain.” Spodek explained that she wished Palm Beach County’s vaccination program was more open for younger people with pre-existing conditions.

Pullas said that Palm Beach County should have spent more time reaching out to its population. She remembered how at the start of the pandemic the county was very active in sending out information about the pandemic and has noticed that as the vaccine distribution began in Palm Beach County there was a noticeable decrease in communication.

Pulla elaborated that the county needed to do a better job in providing information on why getting the vaccine is beneficial for not only the community but for oneself. She noted that some members of eligible vaccination groups do not even want to get the vaccine and that increasing communication could work to change their minds.

Though Spodek, Tobar, and Pullas plan to receive the vaccine when eligible, Francois shared a more hesitant attitude about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

Francois said he is confused by all the variations of the vaccine being offered and does not understand why there is not one universal vaccine. 

“To achieve our goal of ending the acute stage of the pandemic by the end of 2021, we will need as many vaccine candidates as possible for use across a range of populations and settings,” said Aurélia Nguyen, the managing director of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility. 

Early reports of people getting sick after being vaccinated were also worrisome for Francois.

In an email announcement on March 9,  FAU President John Kelly announced the school’s plan to return to traditional in-person classes for the fall 2021 semester. This announcement was met with mixed reactions.

Thompson said she knew some students were skeptical of a full return to in-person classes for the fall, though she conceded that the decision did not affect her as a graduating senior. 

Depending on the class, Spodek said she would prefer an online option and not to take the class in-person on campus.

With plans on being a graduate assistant during the fall semester, Pullas is thrilled at the prospect of returning to campus as long as FAU takes all the right precautions.

Like many other students, Tobar expressed excitement for things to return to normal at FAU but fears for how safe it will be.

“If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon, our economy will be on the mend, our kids will be back in school, and we’ll have proven once again that this country can do anything,” said Biden during his aforementioned address to the country on March 11.

Thompson and Spodek both said the announcement was great for the country. Thompson went further to say that it was an optimistic goal for the country to achieve.

Pullas said she was excited by the president’s announcement and hopes that everyone gets the vaccine when they can.

She described it as a necessary step to “get back to a new normal.”

Francois supported the president’s announcement saying that those 18 and older should have the opportunity to decide if they want to receive the vaccine or not.

Biden’s announcement has been a cause for hope for students across the United States who are eager for the rowdy, active return of normal campus life.


Dylan Hobbs-Fernie is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or @DL.HOBBS01 on Instagram.