Vaccinations, Masks, Social Distancing, and Safety: What Does the Future Hold?
May 11, 2021
While some students are feeling increasingly more hopeful about the future of COVID-19, partially because of new eligibility for vaccinations, school officials are still uncertain of next year’s precautions, and a local nurse is encouraging students to get vaccinated despite safety concerns.
Students Snatch Up Their Shots
On April 5, Iowans over the age of 16 became eligible to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Despite hesitation many West Delaware students have expressed, some are lining up for their shots.
Employed at the local Good Neighbor Society, senior Becca Farmer has been vaccinated since January.
“I feel like it’s my job to protect my residents,” Farmer said. “People were shut out from their family for basically a whole year, and the residents deserve family.”
Receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine four days after she became eligible, senior Camryn Borchardt was vaccinated because she wished to job shadow with her childhood optometrist, who was concerned about keeping patients safe.
“I am excited I get to go see her,” Borchardt said. “I loved her as a kid.”
Not only did some students get vaccinated to delve into their careers, some students, such as senior Brandon Wellman, got vaccinated to keep his family safe.
“The vaccine will provide more good than harm,” Wellman said, who received his second dose Monday, May 10.
The Only Certainty is Uncertainty
“I wish I knew,” Dr. Kristen Rickey said, regarding mask wearing and social distancing at West Delaware next year.
With around 30% of Delaware county vaccinated, Rickey believes it’s too soon to tell if masks or social distancing will be required next year at school.
Because the vaccines aren’t 100% effective, Rickey said that vaccinated students must still wear masks to school this year. However, fully vaccinated students exposed to someone with COVID-19 can avoid quarantine by showing the school their vaccination card.
“Preventing illness is still a concern,” Rickey said. “We social distance, wear masks, and encourage vaccines to keep everyone safe, so any one of them going away increases the chances of the virus spreading.”
According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, around 70% of the population needs to be immune to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity. However, in a recent survey of 191 West Delaware High School students, only 36.1% of students said they plan to be, or already have been, vaccinated.
Rickey explained that she won’t require the vaccine as she can’t make those health decisions for everyone, and that, while there are required vaccinations for students, those decisions are made by community health officials.
“Each individual needs to assess the risks and benefits,” Rickey said. “People need to advocate for their own health.”
While some students are eager, many more are hesitant to get their shots, with concerns ranging from the speed at which the vaccines were developed to unknown short-term and long-term side effects.
Delaware County Public Health nurse Charity Loecke finds this hesitancy concerning, but believes education can help.
“I welcome students to reach out to their providers,” Loecke said. “With the mRNA vaccine, it’s not a new component of vaccines, and they’ve been studying that for a long time.”
Both Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA in their vaccines, which has been studied since the 1990s.
Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, which employs a different method than Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, has recently been linked to rare and serious blood clots, raising safety concerns.
While Loecke believes it’s important to look into the blood clots and inform patients of the possible danger, she says the benefits outweigh the risks.
“It’s very very rare,” Loecke said. “It’s more likely to be struck by lightning twice than to get a blood clot from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”
With around 60% of high schoolers saying they aren’t worried at all about catching COVID-19, many high school students aren’t getting their shots.
However, students expressed significantly more concern about family members catching the virus, with around 65% of respondents expressing some level of concern.
“I recommend anyone eligible for the vaccine to get vaccinated,” Loecke said. “To keep your family safe, it’s important to get vaccinated.”