When the coronavirus shut down the Stony Brook University campus, the promise of a vaccine to end the pandemic seemed very far away. Fast forward one year, and the highly anticipated vaccines – from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – finally made their way to campus.
Stony Brook’s student nurses were key players in the success of the vaccine rollout. Jill Agostino, who left a career in journalism to go to nursing school, was one of them. The pandemic brought back memories of 9/11 and inspired her to turn to nursing.
“I was working in Manhattan during 9/11 and I remember … seeing the missing posters, and Penn Station had an entire wall of those missing posters,” she said. “It was heartbreaking every single time and there wasn’t a single thing you could do about it.”
This time was different.
As a student nurse, Agostino was able to administer the vaccine and fulfill her ambition to help others during the COVID crisis. “Even though it’s just a little thing to do this, you feel like you’re at least doing something,” she said.
In addition to administering the vaccine on campus, Agostino also helped in communities such as Brentwood in Suffolk County and Long Beach in Nassau. She traveled to senior centers and communities with high numbers of COVID cases, making sure that people who were hit hard by the virus or who were unable to use a computer, were able to get inoculated.
“Brentwood is one of the communities that’s probably been the hardest hit on Long Island,” she said. “To be able to go into those communities and do that is such a privilege because you do feel like you’re making a difference. …”
Health care workers were also part of the vaccine rollout team. Emergency medical technician James Mondren, president of the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SBVAC), and his team watched over people who had just gotten their shots to make sure they didn’t have adverse reactions.
Listen to more of Agostino’s and Mondren’s experiences on the vaccination front lines as well as the thoughts of Stony Brook students who rolled up their sleeves for shots in arms: