The COVID-19 Vaccine: A Beacon of Hope for the School Community?

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Luke Lamison

With the Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine already being administered in Britain and in the late stages of approval in America, almost everyone is wondering if this indicates a return to normalcy, particularly students waiting eagerly to come back to the School. While the initial progress is promising, the notion that the vaccine will pull us out of the pandemic altogether is extremely misleading. 

In the coming weeks, officials will administer the Pfizer vaccine to a first phase of individuals: essential workers, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions. This has created tons of buzz around potentially going back to the School rather than hybrid or distance learning. However, it is too early to anticipate a return like this quite yet. The Head of School, Crystal Land, says that “the vaccine will have a minimal impact for awhile, and we will plan to get our students back with other safety protocols.” Similarly, Athletic Director Brendan Blakeley said that “it wouldn’t be fair to say that [the vaccine] will have an effect on high school sports.” 

While it will take around 70% of the population vaccinated to achieve the amount of herd immunity necessary to resume normal activity, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, recently said this might be possible by September. Land echoed his point in terms of the timeline of a full reopening of the school, noting that “[a semi-normal] return to school could be good to go by September if enough students are vaccinated.” Based on the current projections, this is a reasonable point of return, but it still remains subject to change due to the limited quantity of vaccine doses available. 

One potential hurdle the success of the vaccine will face is people refusing to take it due to safety concerns. While adult testing has proved that it causes only minor symptoms and has a strong efficacy rate of 95% — more than double that of flu vaccine — the safety and potency of the vaccine for children remains unknown. “I would take [the vaccine] because it will bring us closer to achieving immunity, as long it is safe and effective,” said junior Rishi Dhawan, expressing a popular sentiment among students. 

While the vaccine certainly brings promise to the idea of returning to school, it won’t be the knight-in-shining-armor people wish it was. The New York Times likened the vaccine to “a fire-house,” and right now, the hose is trying to put out a raging wildfire. If we continue to follow mask and social distancing protocols, we will have a better chance of fully returning to school come September.