In his latest column, opinion writer Zach Freeman discusses COVID-19 vaccine accessibility and why getting vaccinated is more important than ever before. 

Last week, I was doomscrolling through Twitter and was becoming increasingly anxious about the COVID-19 vaccine horror stories being thrown around. The rational part of my brain told me there was nothing to worry about. The panicky part screamed loudly to try and block out that reassurance. The next day, I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Apart from a slightly sore arm, I had no side effects. Overall, it was less unpleasant than a flu shot. A clear head prevailed, and I was left perfectly fine with greater peace of mind. 

Paranoia is only one of several impediments to getting over our collective quarantine blues. With the vaccine only available to frontline medical workers, childcare personnel, teachers and those designated under Phase 1B in Texas, many people don’t see a clear path forward. 

Phase 1B — the second designation for those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine — may still be an option for many who think otherwise. I’m a relatively healthy 21-year-old college student, probably not the demographic that comes to mind when you read over the Phase 1B qualifications. Despite that, I signed up through St. Joseph Health’s website, and after filling out some basic info and waiting a few weeks, I was able to schedule an appointment. 

I was approved under 1B because I had a brain tumor eight years ago. For the record, I’m fine now, and my distant medical history even comes with perks. Who’da thunk it? If you have ever had any of the medical conditions listed under Phase 1B or others, there’s a good chance you could qualify like I did. 

Recently, Brazos County updated its application process and will be accepting new applicants starting Monday, March 8 at 10 a.m. The Brazos Center stated their goal is, “getting a shot in everyone’s arm who wants one.” With applying now easier than it’s ever been, we should make it our responsibility to fulfill this goal. Additionally, these updates may further reduce wait times, making it faster for everyone to get vaccinated.

There are options in some areas for those who don’t yet qualify under Phase 1B. Hardin and Orange counties have opened up vaccinations to everyone, even residents from other parts of Texas, due to an excess of unfilled appointments. Pharmacies all over the country are also vaccinating anybody before closing time so leftover vaccines don’t go to waste. Thousands of unused vaccines are thrown away because of unwieldy guidelines and too few applicants. Therefore, communities of people trying to find these vaccines before they’re thrown away have emerged. Individuals involved in these societies have become known as vaccine hunters

Thankfully, the percentage of tossed vaccines is small relative to the total number of doses produced. However, hospitals not reporting unused vaccine data muddies the water. Regardless, we should not let any vaccines be wasted as long as people are trying to get them. 

As many as one-third of Americans do not intend to be vaccinated, so we must accommodate those actively trying to get vaccinated. We’re going to need everyone we can to have a chance of canceling out the harm done by those who refuse the vaccine. To ensure COVID-19 is no longer a present threat, we need to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population. Currently, only 15 percent of Texans have received their first dose, and eight percent of the state has received both shots.

Vaccine alarmism — worries stoked by the misrepresentation of COVID-19 data — is a real threat to herd immunity. I’ve seen firsthand the fear people create by tying unrelated deaths to COVID-19 vaccines. Misinformation attributing deaths to the vaccines still permeates many online spaces, despite their proven safety. Even when Pfizer was testing their vaccine, panicky brains obsessed over the fact that six participants died during clinical trials.However, four of the six who died were in the control group, which only received saltwater, and all six had died of unrelated causes. The death rate within Pfizer’s trial was no different than the normal death rate of the age group being tested. 

Ironically, it’s been those who are most averse to following health and safety protocols necessitated by COVID-19 who continue to perpetuate the need for them. 

Well-meaning people need to do what they can to minimize COVID-19’s damage in the upcoming months. I hope this article helps you, my dear Batt reader, to know how and where to easily obtain the COVID-19 vaccine and maybe even persuades some of you to reconsider your stance on immunization. If you are still afraid of the vaccine, all I can ask is that you consider why you’re afraid. Do your research. Look at what other people believe, and try to understand it. Even if you don’t think you’ll change your mind, you’ll at least know why you should feel the way you do. 

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” ― Marie Curie. 

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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