The COVID-19 vaccine is the key to returning to normalcy

As COVID cases spike, a new tool joins masks and hand sanitizer to fight the virus that has infected over 24 million Americans. Two vaccines, one by Pfizer and the other by Moderna, have been distributed to frontline workers and seniors since December.

“I would encourage those 16 and over if they have the opportunity to absolutely take the vaccine,” said CVUSD nurse Sandee Velasquez.

The two COVID-19 vaccines are approved for those 16 and over under an FDA emergency use authorization. The vaccine has been controversial since it is an mRNA vaccine, which is different from other common vaccines.

Most modern vaccines contain weakened viruses to create antibodies, which is what helps tell the immune system to attack. The COVID-19 vaccine takes a different route and instead contains a protein found on a coronavirus spike. This protein is used to make antibodies, thus protecting the recipient of the vaccine from COVID-19. No live virus is found in the COVID-19 vaccine. These types of vaccines have been in use for over 20 years and contrary to popular belief, do not edit the DNA in cells.

“It appears to be an incredibly safe vaccine,” Velasquez reassured.

Vaccinations have already begun for frontline medical workers and seniors in Castro Valley. A mass vaccination site has been set up at the Castro Valley Library. Lina Chen, who works at a local dental clinic, received the vaccine there. 

“I wasn’t scared going into it so I didn’t have anything to worry about,” Chen said. So far, she has not experienced any major side effects other than numbness in her arm that lasted for a day. 

“After the needle actually went it I realized that I was right that there was no reason to be scared because it felt the same as other shots,” Chen added.

However, the vaccine is not available for young adults yet. Alameda County Health Care Services outlines the distribution of the vaccine by different phases. Frontline workers, high risk individuals and seniors fall into Phase 1a, which is currently ongoing. Teachers and other essential workers will fall into Phase 1b, which is set to begin soon. Young adults ages 16 and above will not receive the vaccine until Phase 3.

“As long as [the vaccine] works and is distributed fairly and quickly, I’m excited,” said junior Ethan Hudson.

Teachers and students are not required to take the vaccine in order to return to campus, although it is highly recommended. As it has not been approved for use in people below the age of 16, it is currently not a direct factor in reopening schools. It will, on the other hand, help reduce transmission and case numbers.

“It is a good start to slowing the spread and ending this pandemic. I think people should take it,” said junior Lauren Lee.

Across the country, many mass vaccination sites have been opened, vaccinating almost 9 million people. Under the new Biden administration’s plan, we should expect more than 100 million Americans to get vaccinated by the end of April. As more people get the vaccine, cases are expected to drop and schools may be able to reopen. The vaccine may just be the key to returning to normalcy.

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