Published April 22, 2021
For UB freshman Zack Farnam, getting the COVID-19 vaccine was always a question of when, not if.
The biomedical engineering student living in Governors Complex had an appointment in Syracuse for April 25. But he kept looking, eventually finding one on April 8 for a Pfizer shot at a local Walgreen’s. He knows by now he has 65% immunity, but his second dose is coming up quickly, on April 29, with full immunity two weeks later.
“It’s a sigh of relief,” says Farnam, who is also a member of the Buffalo Chips. “I wanted to be protected and protect those around me. I know the science. I know vaccines aren’t dangerous, as some people believe.”
Farnam’s next question is a slam dunk: Would he recommend other students get vaccinated?
“Absolutely,” he says. “Get it as soon as you can. It’s a step toward normalcy. My friends don’t need any encouragement. We were all on the same page.”
Farnam has just the attitude and action UB administrators are hoping for. With all adults now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — and more doses available — UB administrators are urging all students to schedule their shots, for their own safety as well as that of the greater community, UB and beyond.
“There are many vaccine appointments available,” notes Christina Hernandez, interim vice-president for student life.
“We strongly recommend all students schedule a vaccine as soon as possible near UB or in their home communities, for their safety and peace of mind, and those around them.”
The nearly 3,000 students who are now fully vaccinated are a good start, UB officials say, but just that. UB expects that number to grow considerably over the next few months, leading up to the fall semester when the university plans to return to in-person classes and activities.
Public health officials say there are thousands of Moderna and Pfizer appointments opening up throughout Western New York this week and the remainder of the semester. Erie County announced hundreds of walk-in appointments are available at KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo and at the ECC North Campus in Williamsville because of the vaccine surplus.
For helpful information about where to book vaccinations, go to COVID-19: UB Planning and Response. UB Parking and Transportation will provide free shuttle service to vaccine clinics at the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo or ECC North Campus in Williamsville for students unable to get there on their own. There’s also a state-operated vaccination clinic in Harriman Hall on the South Campus, with regular UB bus service between UB campuses. For more information, email email@example.com or call 716-645-3943.
The university’s “vaccinate now” message echoes what UB experts have been advocating for months.
“If you get vaccinated, this is going to enable you to do all sorts of things,” says Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and an expert on the pandemic who is quoted frequently in the news media worldwide. “You can gather safely with other fully vaccinated friends, really the first step toward getting back to where we wanted to go before this whole pandemic descended upon us.
“Vaccination is great for you, and it’s great for our community.”
In the meantime, the number and logistics of UB students receiving their vaccines grow.
Justin Petsos, a senior engineering student living five minutes from the North Campus, caught COVID-19 last October.
“Honestly, it affected me more than I anticipated,” Petsos says. “I had a fever for a couple of days, and lost my taste and smell for about a week. I couldn’t see my family and was forced to stay inside in my own place.”
Petsos signed up to receive the vaccine at the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls. He received his first Pfizer dose on April 5; his second shot is April 26.
“I didn’t want to worry as much,” he explains. “I’m graduating this May, and when I go back to see my family and move back to Rochester, I wanted to make sure everyone was as safe as possible.
“It felt like a flu shot,” he recalls. His recommendation to students: Get the shot.
“It’s better if everyone gets the vaccine, so this whole pandemic will die down,” he says. “After I got my vaccine, a couple of other friends scheduled theirs.”
Archana Mohan, a senior majoring in math and finance now living in Flickinger Court near the North Campus, is also on board. Mohan got her first Pfizer dose on April 16 at the state vaccine clinic on the South Campus. Her second dose is May 7. She wanted the vaccines as soon as possible because she plans to travel internationally this summer.
“There are obvious risks in traveling internationally, but the trip back home is unavoidable right now (owing to work/internship obligations and graduation),” she says. “I wanted to take all the available safety measures.
“Even without the travel concerns, the vaccine is proven to reduce risk of infection significantly. It provides me and the people around a sense of security.
“I highly recommend it to other UB students,” Mohan says, “especially those who live on or near campus. The registration process and all documentation can be done online, so it’s convenient. And if they live near campus the commute shouldn’t be a concern, as there are regularly scheduled UB Stampedes to South Campus.”
UB’s commitment to in-person classes and activities this fall make the vaccines especially important, Mohan says.
“To ensure that we’re all safe here on campus and to not be obliged to do online school again, I believe it’s best that students receive the vaccine at their earliest convenience.”