Have we forgotten when schools were remote, restaurants were reduced to curbside service, and everybody had masks to match the seasons? The distant hope of a COVID vaccine was our greatest dream. “When we have a vaccine, things will return to normal.”

What happened? The federal government threw unprecedented resources into research. A vaccine technology that had been in development for nearly 30 years made that final leap into full scale production. There are AIDS patients who are dying for an opportunity like this, but it wasn’t enough for us. We went from “Only a vaccine can save us!” to “What do you mean it’s approved?! We need years of data to trust this!”

I blame Billy Joel. He just had to throw “children of Thalidomide” into We Didn’t Start the Fire. Then there was Andrew Wakefield, now infamous for his debunked and retracted study into a link between Autism and the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine.

Yes, I know some concerns are more serious than that.

African Americans have a long history of reasons to distrust government medical studies – no one can dispute that. Also, there have been some serious, life-altering repercussions from pharmaceutical companies putting dollars ahead of people, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

People fear the unknown – I get that – but medical resources aren’t being exhausted by people with serious adverse reactions to any of the COVID-19 vaccines, they’re being overwhelmed by people sick and dying from COVID. As I write this, the Vermilion County Health Department reports that three of our Region’s hospital emergency departments are at Peak Census, and in the 21 counties of Region 6 (15 hospitals and 1 VA) there are 10 adult ICU beds available.

The fact is that more than 650,000 Americans have died, and that total is growing. Add to that the number of so-called “Long Haulers” who suffer extreme and lingering symptoms well beyond the normal scope of the virus. Despite the rare breakthrough cases, most of those people are unvaccinated. It was terrifying when we didn’t have a way to fight the virus, but it’s needlessly tragic now.

I mention all of this because Danville Area Community College was included in the recent Executive Order for education regarding the need to either be fully vaccinated or have weekly COVID testing to participate, as a student or employee, in higher education in the State of Illinois. It wasn’t our decision, but it applies to us. While the original start date was September 5, that target date was extended recently to September 19, 2021.

To make this order easier on our college community, we hosted a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine clinic on Friday, September 3, and we have another clinic scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1 for a second dose or a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We are also working with Shield CU and OSF to bring the Shield saliva test to campus once a week. We don’t have a start date, but we’re hoping to have testing in place before the new deadline.

Mandates are never our preference, but something must give. We can only hope, pray, and do our best to insure that what gives isn’t our health, hospitals, economy, or educational opportunities.

Stay safe, friends!

Lara Conklin is director of marketing and college relations at Danville Area Community College. Contact her at 443-8798 or e-mail lconklin@dacc.edu.

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