By Grace Mundy and Katie Ryu
With vaccination rates higher than ever in California, it finally feels like there may be an end in sight to this pandemic. It is estimated that over seven million people in California have been fully vaccinated. Starting April 15, any Californian 16 years or older will be eligible for vaccination. Pfizer also recently requested FDA clearance for a vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds.
These vaccines were developed in record time thanks to newer technologies. There is also ample scientific evidence that they are both safe and effective.
“Based on our understanding of human biology, there is no reason to believe that they should pose any greater risk than any of the more traditional types of vaccines,” Kathleen Mullane, director of infectious disease clinical trials at the University of Chicago Medicine, said.
The three vaccines that have been authorized for use by the FDA are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses for full efficacy, while Johnson & Johnson only requires one dose. Pfizer is the only vaccine recommended for those ages 16 and older, whereas the other two are recommended for those 18 and older. All of these companies are testing or planning to test the vaccine on younger people in the near future.
“Initially when it first came out to the public, I was skeptical. But in time and knowing other people that received it, it eased my mind. It came to the point that I was more afraid of the virus than the possible side effects of the vaccine,” filmmaking teacher Melissa Valenzuela said.
Many students and staff at GHC have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and shared stories of positive and optimistic experiences.
“Getting the vaccine was quite easy and surprisingly fast and painless. Within 10 minutes of arriving at the vaccination site, my dad and I got our vaccines,” senior Sargis Azizyan said.
Psychology teacher Colin Strand also found it to be a manageable and efficient process.
“It was really quick and easy. It seems like they have the process perfected now as far as scheduling and getting people in and out quickly. I was never at the vaccine centers for more than 30 minutes, and 15 of those minutes were just waiting in a chair afterwards to make sure I didn’t have a bad reaction to it. I hate needles but I seriously barely even felt the injection at all,” Strand said.
With these expansive vaccine rollouts come a sense of unity and hope for the future. There also seems to be a sense of camaraderie amongst those getting vaccinated.
When senior Makenna Lee went to receive her dose of the vaccine with her mother, she unexpectedly engaged in a very genuine and pleasant interaction with people who had been complete strangers.
“While we were waiting in line there was a couple in front of us. They were a married couple, and the guy turned around and asked us if we knew anyone who got the vaccine. My mom and I started talking to him. He told us that he was scared of shots, and his wife was trying to reassure him before they got there. We had a really nice conversation with them while we waited. When they got to the front desk, they asked if they could go together so he didn’t have to get the shot alone. The staff complied, and she was able to be there to support him so he didn’t feel as nervous. We waited our 15 minutes with them too. Overall, it was a really pure experience,” Lee said.
Ensuring we maintain public safety continues to be extremely important. Vaccinations greatly reduce the risks associated with Covid for yourself and those around you.
“Taking chances with respiratory diseases is no joke, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Lee said.
It is necessary to address that the vaccine rollout in California and Los Angeles County has not been perfect. There have been valid concerns over equity regarding the way in which communities of color and lower-income communities continue to receive vaccinations at lower rates. And while we ought to remain critical of the disparities and aware of the deeply-rooted health inequities that persist, it is also important to recognize the progress that has been made.
A number of pop-up vaccine clinics throughout Los Angeles and Southern California will be opening for those 18 years and older as early as April 15. The clinics are run by L.A. Care Health Plan and Blue Shield who are in a partnership with USC Pharmacy. Some nearby locations include East Los Angeles College on April 24, the San Fernando Swap Meet on April 28, and Los Angeles City College on April 29. Anyone over 18 is welcome to make an appointment to receive a vaccine.
More and more people are getting vaccinated every day, and it’s bringing about improved public safety, profound relief, and feelings of hopefulness after these many months of hardship–particularly when looking ahead to the times to come.
“Having a vaccine makes me more optimistic about the future since I’ll be in college and living in a new place in less than six months. In fact, my school is requiring that all students be vaccinated before they come on campus in the fall which makes me more excited about returning to normal,” senior Talia Laleh said.
Hopefully, many of us will be vaccinated and even closer to normalcy within these next few months. In the meantime, we should continue doing our part to protect ourselves and others.
“I believe that the vaccine is extremely important especially for protecting those who cannot get it. I know I feel safer and so do many of my friends and family,” sophomore Vernika Gupta said.