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Survey shows most area college students plan to get vaccinated

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - UW-La Crosse, Viterbo University, and Gundersen Health System conducted a study on college students about their opinions on being vaccinated and found many will chose to get the vaccine.

During training at Gundersen, medical students take on a significant health project in La Crosse or surrounding communities. With college students returning last fall and the potential for spread, they chose to target that age group for their study.

The purpose of their study was to understand student attitudes and beliefs about COVID-19 and how it influences their decisions. They wanted to predict vaccination activity within that specific age group when vaccines became available to them and what factors influenced their decision.

Student participants, researchers, and officials from Viterbo and UWL gathered outside the Cleary Alumni Center Tuesday afternoon to discuss the findings and information within the study.

"We found that at both campuses, between Viterbo and UW-La Crosse, the majority of college students surveyed are planning to get the COVID-19 vaccination and feel that it would be safe, easily accessible and readily available, and beneficial to themselves and others," said Rosina Millevolte, a Wisconsin Academy For Rural Medicine Student.

She explained that the majority of students surveyed believe it will prevent themselves and others from getting the virus and it will help life return to normal.

"A large percentage feel that their decision regarding vaccination is most influenced by family, healthcare workers, and people who are at risk," said Millevolte.

They found that the students have mixed feelings about whether or not the vaccinations will have long-term and short-term affects but it doesn't have an impact on their positive views on receiving the vaccine.

"An overall highlight of the survey is that more than 3/4 of students are willing to and plan to get the vaccine and more than 3/4 of students think that the vaccine will protect others," said Millevolte.

They explained that there is a pretty even distribution between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors that plan to get vaccinated. Dan Duquette, chair of UWL Health Education and Health Promotion Department, said he wasn't overly surprised by the results.

"What surprised me was that there were more students with the intention of getting the COVID-19 vaccine that get the flu vaccine by about 10%," said Duquette.

Dr. Kim Lansing, a physician at Gundersen Health System, said she believes there are a few motivating factors for college students.

"I think one of the motivating factors for our college students is, to put it bluntly, they are so over this pandemic," said Dr. Lansing. "I think the feeling they have is they can get back to normal life, they can get back to being with their friends and families."

She explained that many students wrote that vulnerable family members and healthcare workers really motivated their opinions. Surprisingly, she said, they were least influenced by social media and the opinions of their friends.

Amanda Schoenecker, a UWL student and a participant in the study, said her main reason for participating is because she felt many college students were being blamed for making the pandemic worse.

"A lot of college students were being targeted in a negative way. Many people were saying the college population were the ones making the pandemic worse. So I wanted to get involved and see if the intention of people were to actually get the vaccine when it was widely available," said Schoenecker.

She explained that she wanted to represent the college population and students that are aware of the situation.

For Megan Messa, a nursing student at Viterbo, she got involved because of how much the pandemic has impacted her life. She works as a CNA at Eagle Crest South in La Crosse.

"This pandemic has affected me in both my personal life with the elderly population but also my professional life," said Messa. "I wanted to embrace this opportunity to have research across UWL's campus, Viterbo's campus, and with Gundersen."

Dr. Lansing said it was a positive thing to see so many students conscious of how they can help.

"The more people we get vaccinated, the more we have a chance of returning to normal. Once we get this herd immunity going, it will help all of us to be able to see each other's faces again, to interact, go to birthday parties," said Dr. Lansing.

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Rylie Kyhn

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