Immunity becomes more available through vaccination, allows many to shift towards normalcy
As of March 29, Texans 16 and older are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, many upper school students are being vaccinated.
Starting in July 2020, Pfizer-BioNTech began conducting clinical trials on children to test the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. In trials with participants 16 and older, the vaccine proved to be 95 percent effective. On May 10, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 and up. Pfizer has declared that it is 100 percent effective in early clinical trials with children ages 12-15. At press time, Dallas County reported that over 51 percent of those 16 and older have received at least one shot, and 39 percent of people in Dallas County are fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine guarantees children with the virus will not be symptomatic and the chances of hospitalization are slim to none. A May 10 poll of 158 upper school students, revealed that 72 percent said they would receive the vaccine if given the opportunity. These numbers coincide with the Feb. 17 poll of 131 students where 72 percent of upper school students said they would get the vaccine if given the opportunity.
Freshman Brooks Searcy, along with 3 other upper school students, took part in the Moderna vaccine trial for children ages 17 and under. She wasn’t nervous before getting the vaccine. However, she felt anxious because the participants of the trial were required to have their blood drawn. Since it was a trial, Searcy might have gotten the placebo; however, she is confident she did get the vaccine.
“I definitely got the vaccine, not the placebo,” Searcy said. “I haven’t completed the whole process yet, but for our first visit, we signed some paperwork, got our blood drawn, and then got the vaccine. After you get the vaccine, you have to wait for an hour before you can leave. The first visit took about three and a half hours.”
The main side effects after the first shot are fatigue, headache and a fever. For the Moderna vaccine, the second shot is administered 28 days after the first dosage. The second shot is given four weeks later to maximize the effectiveness of the vaccine.
“The second visit was a lot quicker,” Searcy said. “We had our checkup, then got the vaccine and waited [for] an hour after.”
The symptoms of the second shot are usually more noticeable. After the first dose, the recipient’s immune system starts making spike protein antibodies and the immune response happens slowly. Then, four weeks later, after the second shot, the immune system recognizes the spike protein from the first shot and triggers a stronger immune response which typically causes more side effects. According to the CDC, most people who get the vaccine will have moderate to no side effects, but Searcy felt sick after the second shot.
“I threw up after both of my shots,” Searcy said. “My arm was red and swollen for about three to four days after, and I could not lift [my arm].”
According to the CDC, 23 percent of people who receive the Moderna vaccine experience nausea or vomiting, and 14 percent experience swelling at the injection site or arm.
Sophomore Eleanor Vig received the vaccine shortly after turning 16. One of her motivations to get vaccinated was the exemption from school issued quarantine. The school requires quarantining for two weeks after exposure to COVID-19. However, vaccinated students are not required to quarantine. Moving forward, as more students get the vaccine, less upper school students will be quarantined from school.
“Two weeks after I get [the second shot], I’ll be exempt from quarantine,” Vig said. “It’s going to be very beneficial for me because I learn better in person.”
Unlike Searcy, Vig did not participate in a trial and received the vaccine through an appointment. She did so at a CVS pharmacy, which shows available time slots for appointments on their website. She received the Pfizer vaccine as it is the only vaccine offered to her age group.
“My mom booked the appointment through CVS, and it was really easy to get. [They were] really organized with how they gave me the vaccine,” Vig said.
In addition to CVS, the chain stores H-E-B, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Kroger and Walmart, among others, have the ability to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas.
But some students don’t think children should receive a vaccine.
“I think that everyone should get vaccines except children,” freshman Barrow Solomon said. “[They] shouldn’t be getting the COVID-19 vaccine right now since there’s other people who need them more [or] who are elderly and older [with] pre-existing conditions.”
As more students and faculty get vaccinated, the schools’ COVID-19 rules are bound to change. The first major change was made on March 23 when one way hallways, stairways and bathroom passes were decided to be no longer needed.
“The more of a chance of us having to quarantine, the more we have to think about the restrictions,” upper school head Henry Heil said.
But the percentage of vaccinated students is not the deciding factor in loosening up restrictions, rather the amount of people who should be quarantined. In other words, the amount of students who are required to quarantine is dependent on how many students have the vaccine.
“We don’t plan on making everyone vaccinate,” Heil said. “We think there will be 10 percent of our students that won’t get vaccinated next fall.”
At the moment, no student, faculty member or parent is required to be vaccinated to be allowed on campus. The vaccine is optional for both this year and next year.
Another change implemented as more people get vaccinated, is that classes are not routinely on Google Meet. On April 15, Heil sent an email to the upper school students about new policies with COVID-19 restrictions.
“Starting on Monday, April 19, we will no longer routinely offer Google Meet in classrooms,” Heil said. “The exceptions to this change are [to either be] pre-approved by the administration to learn remotely long-term, or on school-issued quarantine. The hope is that students… finish the year in a fashion that resembles ‘normalcy.’”
Student response varied after virtual learning ended for majority of the community. Vig supported the decision, as it promotes fair learning environments for all students.
“I think that the school made a good decision on taking away Google Meet because some students might take advantage of Google Meet,” Vig
said. “Like let’s say they have a test or quiz that day and they decide they want to be online.”
Some school programs this summer will require participants to get vaccinated. For example, Students Shoulder to Shoulder, a service trip program affiliated with the school, is requiring children to get vaccinated in order to attend programs both domestic and international.
Even though the majority of the student body is not eligible to receive the vaccine at this time, inoculation will help control contagion at school.
“The more people in our community who get vaccinated, the better,” Heil said.