To fulfil her duties as a healthcare volunteer, student Nur Hidayah Md Feruz received the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the United States on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old, who is attending Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in Indiana, said she applied for the vaccine through the State Department of Health.
"I was excited when I received my vaccine appointment scheduled at the Eskenazi Health here.
"The vaccine I received was Pfizer. I received the first dose today and the second dose is scheduled in 21 days (March 31).
"After the jab, there was no quarantine order issued for me. But I decided to continue to practice good hand hygiene and continue to wear the mask at all times," she said.
Hidayah told the New Straits Times she had been approved for the vaccination due to her application to become a hospital volunteer at the University Hospital.
"The volunteering programme will start only after I am fully vaccinated. I am expected to receive my second jab on March 31.
"My role as a volunteer will be to mainly assist doctors, nurses, patients, and everyone who needs an extra pair of hands. Hence, I will be exposed as a close contact to potential carriers at the hospitals," she said.
Hidayah said she applied for the vaccine just last week, and was approved almost immediately.
"I submitted my application on Thursday, and my appointment was scheduled for today, March 10, which is super quick.
"In my case, it's the Indiana State Department of Health, after which you can choose the hospital or vaccine centre you wish to receive the vaccine.
"The vaccine administering rate depends on each state. I consider Indiana to be quite fast in distributing the vaccination," she said when contacted.
Hidayah said her decision to volunteer was to give back to society and to help others in need.
"I believe in the power of giving back especially in these trying times, where everyone is having a difficult time in their lives.
"A hospital is a very emotional place to be and I believe as a volunteer, I can help put a smile on someone's face and help make someone's day a lot better," she said.
The US vaccination programme started in December last year, with mainly high-risk groups and the elderly selected to receive the first batch of vaccination.
According to the Indianapolis Star, over 20,000 residents have been vaccinated in the state of Indiana as of March 6.
Hidayah, who has yet to return to Malaysia since the pandemic hit, said her family is supportive of her decision to receive the vaccination and is very proud of her.
She said the decision to not return home was to continue her studies without challenges despite the on-going global pandemic.
"I did not return to Malaysia because yes, it is easier for my studies. I do not have to worry about being stranded and I have a guarantee of my visa status as well."
As the IUPUI Malaysian Students Association president, Hidayah also encouraged her peers to apply for the vaccination when it is available to their age group.
"To my knowledge, no other Malaysian students have registered yet.
"My advice to my peers, for now, is to continue practising social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask at all times," she said.
The fourth-year Electrical Engineering student also shared the new normal learning experience at her campus where classes are being held in a hybrid form consisting of classes held virtually.
Hidayah said IUPUI is planning to continue with physical classes starting with the fall semester in August after the university found that the number of their students who tested positive for Covid-19 were low.
"Every week, IUPUI sends out emails asking students to register for the Covid-19 test and they have a mitigation testing dashboard where we can see the rate of people who tested positive every week.
"The rate is always below 1 per cent which shows that physical distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene helps to combat the spread of the virus.
"We are very excited about physical classes. There are also plans for a physical outdoor commencement in May for all graduating students including myself," she said.
Hidayah said she is not worried about others not practising Covid-19 guidelines as Indiana has made it mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces.
She believed that receiving the vaccine does not guarantee protection for herself, although it is a good first step to take in ensuring herd immunity can be achieved.
"I believe current practices by ensuring good personal hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks are still very important. A vaccinated person should still be cautious about the people around them.
"Taking precaution is not just about protecting yourself, it is also about protecting the people around you from potential carriers which could include yourself," she said.