Meet the Sun Devils working to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations on campus

March 1, 2022

Part of the Sun Devil experience is making sure that we help keep our fellow students safe and healthy. In recent years, this effort has grown to include precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 such as using masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated against the virus. 

Many Sun Devils do their part to help protect their community, and some have emerged as leaders who are helping educate the community about the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“It's not about just protecting yourself. It's really about protecting your community,” said junior Sahara Sajjadi. 

Sajjadi, who is studying political science at ASU, has been working with other students to share information about the COVID-19 vaccine and provide resources to make it easier for their fellow Sun Devils to get vaccinated. 

Sun Devil Health Advocates is a student organization formed last fall focused on empowering all Sun Devils to take care of themselves and each other through a peer-to-peer outreach campaign. Student leaders from across the university are joining the organization in  championing the Devils, You Can Do Something campaign to help raise awareness about the benefits of getting vaccinated and boosted  and shining a bright light on the steps everyone can take to help keep the Sun Devil community safe. 

Like many student advocates, Sajjadi has used social media as an important tool to make information about vaccines more accessible to other members of the ASU community. One thing that Sajjadi recently found in sharing information was that many of her followers were not aware that they could receive a booster vaccination on the ASU campus. 

In addition to passing along information in her personal channels, Sajjadi recently became president of the ASU Young Democrats and has been doing much of her advocacy work through this group as well. In the past, this student organization has volunteered at vaccination sites to support the vaccine effort and help Arizonans outside of the ASU community as well. The group also has plans to host a session where Sun Devils can learn more about the vaccine and vaccination efforts across different marginalized groups. 

“We really believe in the importance of getting people vaccinated and getting people to stay safe and healthy in order to combat this pandemic and to protect immunocompromised people,” Sajjadi said. “We all play a huge role in protecting one another.”

In addition to volunteering with the vaccination efforts, Sajjadi and the Young Democrats want to encourage Sun Devils to use their masks regularly. She also wants to find a way to make better masks like KN95s more accessible at ASU. 

Junior Reyna Cota, who is studying communications, is another Sun Devil working to educate her peers about the vaccine. Cota spent last semester working with the American College Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to spread information about the vaccine in an effort to increase campus vaccination rates. Cota has become an ambassador armed with resources and information to help her fellow students feel more comfortable about getting vaccinated. 

The American College Health Association is an organization that focuses on improving the health and wellbeing of college students on campuses all across the nation. Recently, the organization has put COVID-19 vaccinations at the forefront of its efforts to keep students safe and healthy. It launched a program to recruit college students from all over to be ambassadors and provide their fellow students with the resources to learn more about the importance of being vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Like many of these ambassadors, Cota’s advocacy lived primarily on social media. She invited students to ask questions about the vaccine and provided them with resources to learn more and even schedule their vaccine appointments. 

“I got the vaccine myself and felt comfortable doing so, which helps to support others when they're in the process of deciding whether or not they're ready to get it,” Cota said. “[I’m] trying to get the resources out to people to make sure that they're reviewing the right kind of information, instead of misinformation that is seen everywhere.”

Cota said that it’s important for vaccinated students to go beyond their close circles and to share the positive experiences that they’ve had both with the vaccine and because of it. 

“It's worked out for me,” Cota said. “I've been in environments like classroom settings where things could be spread and so far, nothing has hit me yet.” Cota said that she has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past and has yet to catch it, which she believes to be an indication that her vaccine is working. 

Senior Cameron Adams has also been working with the American College Health Association to encourage Sun Devils to get vaccinated. Adams, a senior studying global studies, was formerly the president of ASU’s Young Democrats and has been involved in numerous advocacy initiatives in our community. Adams’ work with the American College Health Association was through a marketing firm. Adams helped plan and promote events that would incentivize students to get vaccinated or schedule an appointment by offering things like free coffee. 

Other efforts included social media campaigns that would encourage students to share why they got vaccinated. Adams believes that the more students are educated about the vaccines and encouraged to get them, the more likely they will be to actually get them. 

“Obviously there's a group of people who are not getting vaccinated because they don't want to, but there I think there's more people than you realize that have no opinion about the vaccine and just haven't done it yet because maybe they work a lot or don't have transportation,” Adams said. “I believe in showing them how to get those kinds of resources. [This means] having more events or tabling.”

A common motivation for these three Sun Devils is a desire to return to what life was like before the pandemic.  

“The more people who are vaccinated, the safer the community is. If we ever want to stop wearing masks and having socially distant events, everyone needs to get out, especially as the virus changes. The less people get vaccinated, the [more the] virus will change and mutate,” Adams said. 

Those who want to learn more about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination can read about myths and misconceptions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Sun Devils who are interested in learning more about making an appointment to get vaccinated on campus can find more information here.