Photo courtesy of Dani Primerano
Needles and fear: for many WCHS students those two words are synonymous. In normal years, students dread having to get shots, but everyone knows this year is not normal with desperation setting in to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Normally the hottest commodity in the school community is a new iPhone or pair of Yeezys, however, currently it is the needle that will inject medicine to help end this pandemic.
Maryland is currently in phase three of their vaccination rollout, which opened vaccinations up to all residents over 16 years old. Students at WCHS range in age from 14-18, meaning that over half of the student population, as well as all faculty members, are eligible to now get one of the three vaccines available. For seniors and staff members over the age of 18 they have the option of receiving Moderna, Johnson and Johnson or Pfizer, but students between 16 and 18 are only allowed to get the Pfizer vaccine.
“I work for the county and because of my job I was eligible for my vaccine before most other people my age,” WCHS junior Dani Primerano said. “I had a vaccine appointment for early March that I was really excited about because having the vaccine would let me feel more comfortable being in person and interacting for work. Unfortunately it got cancelled because the site ended up having Moderna that day which I am not eligible for. Luckily, I was able to get a Pfizer appointment in April and am now fully vaccinated.”
The desire to receive a vaccine as soon as possible, as well as the need to get Pfizer, can lead WCHS students to travel far distances. Even just getting an appointment can be a difficult process.
“As soon as the governor said I was eligible my mom started calling a bunch of pharmacies and friends to find out where I could go,” WCHS sophomore Jordan Lapidus said. “I ended up taking school from the car one morning while my mom drove me to Baltimore so I could get the vaccine at M&T Bank Stadium. Unlike normally when she is annoyed I ask her for rides, she was overjoyed to drive me there and back so I could finally get the shot.”
Many students went to mass vaccination sites that were not very close to the WCHS cluster in order to get their shot as soon as possible. In addition to M&T Bank Stadium, some students went to Six Flags in Bowie. As the vaccine rollout continues to go on and supply increases, it is becoming easier to secure appointments more locally for the life saving vaccine.
“The first week that I was eligible I was already busy and couldn’t go to get it,” WCHS sophomore Bella Zoll said. “The next week I went on the CVS website at midnight which is when I had heard that they open new slots. There were plenty of appointments available at different CVS locations near me and I scheduled one for four days later. I went in, showed my ID and then just had to wait for fifteen minutes. It was a super quick and easy experience.”
Just like other vaccinations and medications, some people experience side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Common side effects according to the CDC are pain, swelling and redness around the injection area as well as general tiredness, nausea, fever, chills, muscle pains and headache. The CDC also explains that it is common for side effects to be more intense after one receives their second dose.
“About five hours after getting my vaccine I was super tired and just generally didn’t feel great,” WCHS junior Madeline Reeve said. “I stopped doing work and took a nap, after that I felt totally fine. I didn’t even mind the side effects because it let me know the shot was working. Having the protection now is 100 percent worth the couple hours of side effects.”
The joy and relief that receiving the vaccine brings is a feeling reiterated by most who have been fortunate enough to get it. Being vaccinated allows one to be indoors with another person without having to wear a mask. After both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, recipients have 95 percent immunity as well as the approval from the CDC to travel.
“When I got the shot it felt like a huge relief,” WCHS sophomore Nishu Shah said. “Now that my parents and I are both vaccinated I am much more free in what I can do. The vaccine is what is letting them feel comfortable sending me back to school, and now that my friends and I are vaccinated we can hang out inside. I feel like the day I got my vaccine was the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”
Since the youngest age eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is 16, freshmen and some sophomores are not yet able to get it. Vaccine companies are working to get approval for younger ages, but this could take some time.
“All of my friends are older than me and have gotten the first dose,” WCHS sophomore Charlotte Norment said. “It is so frustrating that just because I am slightly younger I can’t get it. I want to be able to feel as free as they do, and I am less than two months away from being 16, but even as close as I am I still can’t get it. Hopefully it will be open to the next age group, 12-15 year olds, soon.”
Pfizer has already concluded clinical trials testing their vaccine on children aged 12-15. The trial had a very positive outcome showing 100 percent efficacy. They submitted the results to the FDA for emergency authorization, and the approval for younger kids could come in the next couple of weeks. The goal of many health experts and community members alike, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. James Wood, is to try to vaccinate kids before the school year starts. With more and more people vaccinated the idea of herd immunity is getting closer and closer. The vaccine is providing the light at the end of the tunnel on this period of our lives.
“After a year of being at home and waiting on when the pandemic would end, getting the vaccine finally feels like we’ve reached that point,” Shah said. “Receiving the vaccine felt like receiving freedom and normalcy.”