Courtesy of Flickr user Daniel Paquet
On Monday, May 10, the FDA expanded the Pfizer vaccine’s approval to include all people over the age of 12. Due to this, school districts across the country considered mandating the vaccine for all eligible students. This would mean that all high school students, as well as the majority of middle school students, would be required to receive the vaccine to attend school. However, there is still uncertainty among parents surrounding the decision to have school children vaccinated, even though the FDA and CDC deemed this vaccine safe. Despite these concerns, we must consider the proven benefits of getting students vaccinated and push for mass immunizations throughout school systems.
There are several reasons for parents’ hesitancy, one mainly being the vaccine’s safety and questions about its true effectiveness. The vaccine’s potential side effects are a point of hesitancy as well. Yes, there have been reported cases of severe side effects due to the vaccine; however, these are rare and vary for each individual. Despite these worries, I feel the vaccine is a necessary step to not only protect yourself but others as well.
The CDC has deemed the Pfizer vaccine 94% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 infection after both doses. Additionally, the CDC says that the side effects associated with the vaccine may temporarily restrict certain activities; however, these symptoms will likely go away within a few days. After my second dose, I experienced temporary side effects: fever, tiredness and arm discomfort. However, my symptoms went away after only a day and I haven’t experienced any pain or discomfort since. I recognize that everyone has a different experience with the side effects of the vaccine, but, for the most part, the sickness isn’t too intense for most people’s bodies to fight off.
Many colleges across the United States mandated vaccinations for students in the upcoming school year. This became popular when Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, announced that they would require all students to be vaccinated before starting classes. The trend has increased from there. Currently, hundreds of colleges are requiring students to show proof of vaccination as they arrive on campus. This step is one that colleges have deemed crucial to ensure the safety of their students, which should be the standard for high school students as well.
In addition to colleges, many high schools have made immunizations mandatory for students. Some school systems in Massachusetts, such as Needham Public Schools, are requiring students to be vaccinated to attend school. The Needham Superintendent explained his decision as a way to keep the schools open during the ongoing pandemic. This requirement is a huge step in increasing the total number of student vaccinations across the state. Additionally, this mandate will hopefully inspire other school systems in the area to do the same because protecting students should be seen as a top priority.
Despite the vast benefits of vaccinating students, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has not made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for school systems in MA. However, even without a requirement from the government, this is a step that students should take. The looming thought of returning to a fully remote school is still possible, although not desired, and vaccinations are a significant step in keeping our schools open throughout the pandemic.
To all of the students who are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, consider how it could affect the return of normalcy and mark the end of this deadly pandemic. I know I can’t force anyone to get vaccinated, but I strongly encourage students to consider it, especially if it means that we don’t have to be confined to COVID-19 regulations and get to have a normal last few years in high school.