As of May 10, COVID-19 vaccines are now available to all high school students. It falls on Country Day, then, to decide how much to encourage students to be vaccinated by the next term.
We think that the school should heavily encourage student vaccination, and any still-cautious parents should vaccinate their kids before fall. It’s the safest way to have school in-person, and finally do away with masks and distancing.
Vaccines have only just been made available to students. On April 15, California opened up vaccinations to all eligible candidates, including students from 16 years of age up under Pfizer’s vaccine. Then, on May 10, the Pfizer shot received additional FDA emergency approval for 12-15 year olds, covering all high school ages.
Since the massive U.S. vaccine rollout, the country has seen a slow decline in daily COVID-19 cases, almost back to the spring levels right after the initial lockdowns. This seems to suggest that vaccinations, in fact, work.
The CDC’s recent May 12 mask-wearing recommendations seem to recognize that; those vaccinated don’t need masks in most circumstances. Barring an unwelcome surprise, that means vaccinations could end the lockdowns and social distancing of the last year.
Country Day, at least, would love to have that. Most students would agree that learning is just not as effective over Zoom. Faculty and students would also be happy to shed social distancing and masking if safe.
Having all students vaccinated would be the easiest way to get to that stage. Ideally, it should be a school requirement like other common vaccines are, although there are some legal issues around requiring a vaccine that only has FDA emergency approval. It falls, then, on any remaining parents to get their kids vaccinated, and the benefits far outweigh the risks.
For one, this would be the safest option for having students on campus. Having the entire high school campus vaccinated practically makes us as safe as pre-COVID times. California recently released statistics on COVID-19 cases and there have been less than 200 deaths in those vaccinated. That’s a good vaccine there.
As for the risks, a common reason given by those hesitant is that the vaccine may be unsafe, because it’s new and only emergency-approved and no one knows the long-term effects.
Not really true. One, half the country has had vaccine shots and we haven’t seen any widespread issues. Second, vaccines don’t just have ‘long-term’ effects. We would have noticed it by now, at least some rare people would have shown early signs if there was a large long-term effect.
Another reason, used most by young adults, is that they just don’t need the vaccine. This is also not true. The risk is far lower, but still present if you are young. In fact, because of the widespread vaccination in older populations, a lot of the newer cases are coming in kids and young adults. Plus, that just means you get even more immunity once vaccinated.
Availability isn’t an issue either, most vaccination sites now have readily open appointment slots. Country Day is even partnering with Albertsons/Safeway Pharmacy for its own one-time vaccine clinic, providing Pfizer doses to students and parents aged 12 and up.
There are only a couple general reasons to not get a vaccine. For required vaccinations, exceptions are generally made for medical conditions or religious beliefs. Other than that, parents really have no excuse for vaccinating their kids.
With vaccines, we get to shed social distancing and masks, finally have a normal school year again.
Vaccine holdouts shouldn’t drag out the pandemic for all of us. Parents, you need to get your children a COVID-19 shot for the next school year.
Originally published in the May 25 edition of the Octagon.