For Brian Bruxvoort, getting the COVID-19 vaccine was an easy decision.
The math major and pitcher on the Western Nebraska Community College baseball team told the Star-Herald he plans on traveling this summer. He said he didn’t want COVID-19 to hold him back.
“I want to go and do things at those places,” Bruxvoort said as he waited the required 15 minutes in WNCC’s Pioneer Hall in case he suffered any adverse effects from his Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
He summed up what the vaccine gave him in a single word, “freedom.”
Bruxvoort, along with dozens of other Cougar students, had the opportunity to get vaccinated Monday as part of a school-sponsored vaccine drive.
Like many colleges, COVID-19 hammered WNCC last year. The school shuttered last March, reopened in the fall and saw infections among students. In response, WNCC put forth a mask requirement as well as several other requirements.
Now, as multiple vaccines roll out across the U.S and western Nebraska, WNCC’s Environmental Health Safety Coordinator Josh Vesper said he wants everyone to get the jab.
“We know that that’s probably not going to happen. However, we’re going to continue to encourage those students to get vaccinated because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Vesper said he assumed vaccinating staff and students would occur late in the spring semester. That gave the college time to prepare and plan with health agencies like Panhandle Public Health Department and Scotts Bluff County Health Department.
The delay, brought on by the phased roll-out, also allowed students to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Vesper said. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots before a person is inoculated, one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets the job done.
For Vesper, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes the whole process that much easier.
“It reduces the complexities of trying to bring them back or trying to schedule something else, for when they move home in a month,” Vesper said. “It’s just great for us to do.”
Vesper said members of the staff were eager to get the jab. Students, many in their late teens and early twenties, require more convincing.
“We just want to do the right thing,” Vesper said. “And if we have experts here, we have this great public health partnership that we can work with. If they’re telling us this is the right thing to do, and this is the best thing for you and your staff and your students, we’re going to follow along.”
Devon Shelor, a music education sophomore, said he understands the hesitation but believes it’s better to be vaccinated.
“It makes me hopeful for the future when we can get rid of these things,” Shelor said, gesturing to his face mask.
Vesper said he hopes WNCC can host another vaccine drive before the semester ends.