Block party sparks conversation about COVID-19 vaccination at WTAMU

Graphic by Jenna Mainley

On Wednesday Sept. 29, West Texas A&M University put on a block party/vaccination clinic called Big Shot Block Party. The event took place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. between the Fine Arts Complex and Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

Student Medical Services has been offering COVID-19 vaccines since they have become available and there have been vaccination clinics offered at all of the 2021 New Students Orientations (NSOs). However, this block party was the first major event promoting vaccination for WTAMU students.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated students participated in this event, which included free food, games and music. A vaccination clinic offering Moderna and Pfizer vaccines made it convenient for unvaccinated students to get their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

There was a raffle offering numerous prizes, including $50 and $100 Visa gift cards and two $50 Buff Cash awards, to provide incentive for students to get their first vaccine dose.

Raffle table. Photo by Hannah Valencia

Dr. Matthew Harrison, Wendy and Stanley Marsh 3 endowed assistant professor of Shakespeare, and Dr. Daniel Herbert, assistant professor of English
and director of undergraduate English studies, came up with this idea because they both have small children at home who are unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I think trying to figure out how to take something that has been divisive and scary, and make it an opportunity for coming together is something that is, even if it’s small, worthwhile,” Harrison said. “…I think we’re starting the conversation, and I think people ultimately have the ability to make an informed choice.”

To encourage making informed decisions relating to COVID-19 vaccination and provide accurate information about the virus and vaccine, Dr. Shanna James, the COVID-19 program manager for the City of Amarillo Public Health Department, was available to talk with students about their questions and concerns.

James speaking with students. Photo by Hannah Valencia

“The majority of the people that I’ve talked to today have legitimate questions and concerns, and things they’ve read or seen or heard from somebody else,” said James. “And after speaking with them and talking to them about actually how our immune system works, and how vaccines work and how other medications work, and what’s going to happen to them when they get vaccinated, 90% of the people I’ve talked to have went and actually decided to go get the vaccine.”

Sign pointing to the vaccine clinic. Photo by Hannah Valencia

This interactive and educational aspect of the block party was not only a way for students to become informed on COVID-19 and vaccination, but also a safe space for students to ask questions, voice their concerns and have an open discussion about these topics.

Victoria Reyes, a student at the event, said she had doubts about the vaccine. However, after doing research and talking with James, she decided to get her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“If I told people that I wasn’t vaccinated, they were understanding…I didn’t feel judged,” Reyes said.

This block party was a fun event for students, but also a learning opportunity to get the facts about COVID-19 and vaccination. There are so many different messages being given to students over social media and even by peers or family, so this was a great opportunity to provide students with the resources to make informed decisions about their health.

“I think being open and positive and celebratory about this incredible medical achievement that people put together with tremendous amounts of labor…it really is an incredible thing,” Harrison said, “…and it really has changed a lot of lives.”

This story was updated on Oct. 8, 2021 for formatting and style.