COVID-19 vaccines have finally made its way to the Bay Area and many eligible Alameda County residents received their initial doses in the past month. Thousands of cars line up outside the Oakland Coliseum daily to obtain the Pfizer vaccine.
Even U.S. active-duty troops are present to guide traffic and help people reach their designated spots. Everyone is required to show their ID and appointment confirmation code. Afterwards, they are directed to a tent to answer general health related questions. After receiving the shot, they wait 15 minutes to watch for allergic reactions and immediate side effects.
Currently, those with professions in education, childcare, food and agriculture, and emergency services can sign up for the vaccine. Many CVHS teachers received the first dose of Pfizer. English teacher Brandon Youngsma will receive his second dose on March 10.
“I’ve heard the second dose can be brutal the day after. Given the standard flu vaccine has me nauseous and dizzy the day after, class may be challenging to teach. However, I’m excited as it means there’s more safety for those around me,” said Youngsma.
Youngsma had a pleasant experience at the site. “The entire experience took 30 minutes, and that included waiting 15 minutes after the injection to observe any allergic reactions. National guard soldiers were kind and courteous and it ran smoothly,” he said.
AP art history teacher Jo Sutton felt “relief and elation” after receiving her first dose of Pfizer and her second dose was on March 5.
“The Oakland Coliseum mass vaccination site was such a trip. All the twists, turns, and staging of the vehicles was a surreal experience with the National Guard in their camos directing traffic. I got jabbed in between the horns of my dragon tattoo, which was cool,” Sutton commented.
Many are concerned about the vaccine’s side effects, considering their rapid development and distribution, as opposed to other vaccines that undergo years of clinical trials.
Science teacher Laura O’Brien claimed the vaccines were not rushed. She believes it is completely safe to take it.
“As a biotech teacher, we teach the vaccine process. The vaccines went through all clinical trials. None of the safety aspects were rushed. It went faster because they threw money at it. They purposely picked technologies that could be developed faster. The mRNA vaccines and everything else we’ve been researching for decades were adapted for this,” O’Brien claimed.
Though most students are ineligible for COVID-19 immunization at the moment, senior Kausar Raniwala received her first dose of Pfizer at the Coliseum’s vaccination site. Raniwala has type one diabetes and conducts after-school tutoring; therefore she falls under the education and childcare category.
“To get the vaccine, I showed proof of employment as working in the education sector and that gave me eligibility,” said Raniwala.
Most teachers will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month, which is when the reopening plan states to open schools. Even then, a concern still exists for many: how will the safety and protection of students be ensured without vaccinating them?
Raniwala claimed schools need to be more transparent in terms of steps and procedures they are taking to keep students safe.
“The school hasn’t been clear about their plan to enforce mask-wearing, especially in hallways or in between classes. We have students with preexisting conditions. I’m quite concerned about schools opening as soon as April. It’s not exactly safe. Cases are still rising, even with vaccines,” she said.
Youngsma is also unsure about whether it would be safe to open schools.
“Castro Valley is taking a cautionary approach, slowly phasing the openings and giving a chance for corrections to be made. While I’ll have both doses, most students won’t be vaccinated by summer. I do not want to be the reason someone gets sick,” he said.
Sutton feels hesitant about the whole situation as well. “I feel guilty that I’ll be vaccinated, but my students will not. I worry for them and their families. I’m pleased they’re allowed to stay home if they so desire. So, I think it’ll be safer for some and less safe for others, which feels unfair,” she claimed.
O’Brien stated that there will be many safety measures being put in place.
“Sixty-eight percent of staff have already started the vaccination process. Everybody will be wearing masks. I’ve rearranged my room so desks are six feet apart. With drops in cases, all the layers of safeguards, screeners, masking, distancing, frequent handwashing, and more vaccinations, I think it’s possible to open schools safely. They’re also testing staff regularly. As a science teacher, I’m trying to wrap my brain around how to make labs happen in this different environment,” she said.