Writing about vaccines proves a service to community and to self

Through class assignments I was able to dig into many angles of the vaccine rollout process

Photo by Clare Grant | Elon News Network
An Alamance County Health Department worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Jan. 18 at The Career and Technical Education Center in Burlington, North Carolina. The health department administers both Moderna and Pfizer vaccine on different days depending on supplies.

If you had asked me a year ago what I would be writing about during my sophomore year of college, I would not have said vaccines. No one saw this past year coming, and it has changed our world in many ways, but I think one of the ways that fascinates me the most is how the COVID-19 pandemic changed storytelling.

For numerous Elon News Network and class assignments, I have been tasked with writing about the vaccine rollout process. From the emergency authorization made by the Food and Drug Association of some version of the vaccine to the arrival of the first doses North Carolina received to now, how students, faculty and staff are getting the vaccine, there is no shortage of angles and stories to cover when it comes to the potential end to the pandemic.

My favorite angle of the vaccine story I have written about is looking at the challenges facing small communities, such as the Town of Elon, who have no way of tracking vaccine rollout in their area. In the state of North Carolina, one can track the vaccine rollout through the health department. In Alamance County, there is also a relative count to how many people have received the vaccine. While both systems are tentative and bound to have mistakes or miscounts, the data is invaluable even when incomplete to illustrate the percentage of the population who have received the vaccine, who are eligible to receive the vaccine, and who is still waiting. 

But for small towns without their own sets of data, there is no way to know how vaccine rollout is going. While this may not seem like a problem, for communities like Elon, without knowing the vaccinated population, it is hard for town officials to make important decisions such as how and when to increase the number of residents allowed indoors, or how to reevaluate mask mandates within different settings. 

I love writing about the Town of Elon for many reasons, but with this story, I loved writing about the unique situation our town faces because it is not an obvious challenge. If you don’t spend an abundant amount of time in the surrounding town area, which many Elon University community members do not, the challenges presented by a lack of data may never even occur to you. I know before I spoke with town officials, that was not a challenge I knew existed. It was only by reporting and really listening did I find out about this issue.

To keep up with coverage of the vaccine rollout, the pandemic, and more, click here to see my latest stories.

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