Hannah Sorensen, junior biomedical science major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), became one of the first people in New Hampshire to receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. 

 Sorensen is a phlebotomist, which is a medical professional who draws blood, at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, and due to the direct contact with patients associated with this role, she received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23. She was originally scheduled to receive the vaccine on Dec. 17 but was delayed due to the snowstorm that blanketed much of New England. 

“I am feeling beyond fortunate to even be given the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Sorensen said in an email interview with The New Hampshire. “This vaccine is such a huge step forward and it is so exciting to be a part of its impact.” 

Like all UNH students, Sorensen had to contend with the pandemic’s effects on her academic life in the spring of 2020 when all of her classes moved online. For Sorensen, it was a challenge, but she said, “Yet, it has pushed me to better myself, adapt to new ways of learning, and still shoot for my goals.” 

Additionally, Sorensen said that position as a phlebotomist was greatly impacted by the pandemic, with a lot of education going into new personal protective equipment (PPE) and new virus protocols. “It was definitely initially scary to not know much about the virus and be working directly with COVID patients at the hospital,” she said.  

Despite this, she said, the hospital kept their staff safe. “One of my favorite parts of working in a hospital is that everyone works together as a team towards the common goal of providing the best care for our patients,” Sorensen said.  

And some of her fears were alleviated by UNH’s testing twice-a-week testing protocol when classes began again in the fall semester. “The frequent testing definitely gave me ease of mind to know I was consistently testing negative amidst working at a hospital while COVID cases were consistently on the rise,” she said. “It also kept me mindful to be diligent about wearing a mask and social distancing to help combat the spread.” 

Sorensen believes that the COVID-19 vaccine is a key and vital part of combatting the virus and returning to a semblance of normalcy. “This vaccine is not about politics, it’s about public health,” she said. “The main reason I chose to receive it is so that I can confidently do my part in protecting others.” 

She acknowledged that many people are wary of the vaccine and said that she had been educating herself on it, and the more she does so, the more she has found herself trusting in it. “One of the most critical factors in this vaccine is educating the public,” she said.  

As to what it means to be getting the vaccine as a UNH student, Sorensen said, “To me it means one step forward in overcoming this virus and protecting my community. It means not letting adversity overcome you.” 

Sorensen is maintaining hope in the face of the pandemic, and the vaccine is now a part of that. “We as a human race have never stopped adapting in times of adversity and I think it is beautiful to see all that we can accomplish and the new opportunities that arise. We never give up, and I know because of that we will overcome this virus.” 

Photo Courtesy of UNH Today