AHS responds to COVID-19 vaccine news

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People can find where they rank in the line for the vaccine through the ​NYTimes Covid Calculator​. (Graphic/Nithisha Makesh)

COVID-19 took a toll on many lives, whether through the loss of a loved one or changing day-to-day-schedules. After 10 months of social distancing, wearing masks and not seeing relatives or friends, the ​first news​ of a COVID-19 vaccine in the works came out Nov. 6. Now almost a month later vaccines are ready to ship to the public.

Per ​BBC​, “Millions of vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being distributed, with 150 hospitals expected to receive doses on Monday. The US vaccination programme aims to reach 100 million people by April.”

With the rush of COVID-19 vaccines on their way to distribute to the rest of America, one question is how schools will deal with them. “Once the vaccine becomes readily available to the public, I think the social distancing and mask wearing is going to continue. From what I’ve read, vaccines won’t be readily available to the public until maybe May or June, so to play it safe we will continue [with the same protocols],” school president Dr. Douglas Laurie said.

Since the vaccine won’t allow things to go back to normal immediately, and there will be some time until most people have access to it, Heritage plans to see how things work out and decide from there.

“As vaccines become more available, we would probably see a rise in students coming back to school. I feel very confident that if enough people are vaccinated by the summer, things may very well get back to a regular situation by the start of school,” Dr. Laurie said.

Heritage follows protocols from the CDC and works along with their personal medical team of epidemiologists as well as doctors such as Dr. Jason Haffizulla and Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla to make the school a safe environment for students. Heritage also has connections with an owner of a COVID-19 testing clinic, Mr. Josh Ruskin, to provide them with Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, so students and faculty have the ability to test on campus.

According to Dr. Laurie, if the Coronavirus doesn’t get worse and many students prove they received the vaccination, then Heritage might relax some of the procedures for those students as long as they can prove they won’t be harmful to other students.

When it comes to administering the possibility of the vaccine at Heritage, schools at this time are not allowed to take part in giving out the vaccine. “I don’t think at this moment they are authorizing schools to administer the vaccine. There’s no public policy in place. They’ve contracted with Walgreens and hospitals such as Memorial, but I’m not aware that they are in the talks of public and private school mass vaccinations,” Dr. Laurie said.

However, if or when schools are allowed to distribute the vaccine, Dr. Laurie would think about doing so. “I would certainly consider it if that’s the case. We have a big team of nurses that could do it. As a matter of fact, we do have two minus 86 degree freezers that could actually hold the vaccine, which not too many schools can say,” he said.

Students who plan to come back to school can expect to learn in a safe environment and follow the same safety guidelines for the rest of this school year.

“Keep working hard, and it’s eventually going to get better,” Dr. Laurie said regarding what students should be doing now. “Just be careful what you do at home and in public. Everyone should know the rules by now. Be careful for the people in your lives who are especially susceptible, and don’t do any activity that might expose yourself.”

Nithisha, a sophomore at American Heritage, is starting her first year on newspaper staff. Besides writing and reading, Nithisha enjoys many artistic hobbies, like painting, sewing and crocheting. She spends most of her time either studying, pursuing one of her hobbies or watching "Gilmore Girls." A total book nerd, she tries to read as often and as many books as possible.

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