WCHS students receive COVID-19 vaccines


Photo courtesy of Naomi Schneiderman

The Greenbelt Metro Station mass vaccination site administers vaccines to local residents. As one of the closest mass vaccination centers to most WCHS students, this location is a popular one to receive the vaccine.

By Maya Bhattiprolu, Copy Editor

After months of restrictions and anxious waiting, Maryland has accelerated their COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. Appointments are now available to anyone ages 16+, and WCHS students are taking advantage of the opportunity. 

“I was very excited to get the vaccine because it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders,” junior Alicia Garretson said. “I really wanted to see my family and friends that were also vaccinated, and now I can.”

Maryland’s vaccine distribution plan includes three phases: phase one gives priority to healthcare and frontline workers, education staff and adults 65+; phase two allows other essential workers and at-risk adults to get the vaccine; phase three opens vaccinations to the general population.

As of April 6, all Marylanders 16+ are eligible to get the vaccine at mass vaccination sites, and since April 12, they have been eligible to schedule appointments and receive the vaccine from all providers. 

“Walter Reed was offering vaccines to military families, and all we had to do was walk in,” Garretson, who has received both doses, said. “My mom and I only had to drive 20 minutes to get it.”

Many others were not so lucky. Some mass vaccination sites, like the Hagerstown Premium Outlets, offered walk-in appointments, but required traveling almost 50 miles each way. Others, like the Greenbelt Metro Station and Montgomery College Germantown, were closer but still significantly farther than local pharmacies. 

“I got my vaccine at the site set up in the parking lot of Greenbelt Metro Station,” sophomore Naomi Schneiderman said. “I had to drive about 30 minutes to get it, but once I got there, I only had to wait a few minutes before it was my turn.”

Some students used sites like vaccinespotter.org to search for available appointments within a certain distance. Others scoured pharmacy websites in hopes of stumbling across an open slot or  simply waited until they received an email after pre-registering.

“It actually wasn’t hard to make an appointment for me,” Schneiderman said. “I pre-registered through the Maryland Government Vaccine website. Once you pre-register, you will get a call or email when there’s an appointment for you.”

Since the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine is currently the only one FDA approved for 16-and-17-year-olds, a majority of WCHS students received that one. However, not all students are eligible- some freshmen and sophomores are too young to receive the vaccine. 

“I turned 16 a few days ago, so as soon as I woke up I made an appointment,” sophomore Sydney Willich said. “Luckily, my friend sent me a link for a local CVS that had appointments, so I didn’t have to travel too far.”

Especially for those returning to school, getting the vaccine is important to ensure there isn’t an outbreak among high school students. 

“I am not too nervous about going back without being vaccinated because I know there are guidelines and regulations that are in place to keep people safe,” Willich said. “There isn’t that much of a spread from surfaces and I know teens are less vulnerable, but having the vaccine before I go would be nice.”

Many people are hesitant to get the vaccine because of the side effects. According to the CDC, the most common ones include pain and swelling on the injection site, fever, fatigue, and headaches.  However, the severity of the side effects differ for each person. 

“My arm felt super sore and I had a slight headache, but that was it,” Garretson said. “I thought it would have been a lot worse because of what I had been hearing, but I could honestly still do my normal activities. I felt a lot better after a few days.”

Despite the initial discomfort, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any preconceived notions. By receiving the vaccine, WCHS students are upholding their civic duty in the race to return to normalcy.

“By getting the vaccine, you are not only protecting yourself, but you are also protecting others, including your loved ones, from getting COVID-19,” Garretson said. “If everyone got vaccinated as soon as they were able to, we could transition out of this pandemic quickly and safely.”