The Covid-19 Vaccine and the Future of In-Person School

The+Covid-19+Vaccine+and+the+Future+of+In-Person+School

Cruz Trevithick, Reporter

After almost a year of living with the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, we may be finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but how we get there is still very much up for debate. 

The Covid-19 vaccine is still in the early stages of distribution, but many are hopeful that mass vaccination will be the starting point from which we begin a return to normal. Among the hopes hinging on the vaccine, millions of American families are eagerly anticipating a return to in-person learning. 

According to the Washington State Department of Health, vaccinations will be given according to a system of phases. 

Currently, those in Phase IA and IB are eligible to receive the vaccination.

Those included in the 1A Phase of vaccination include high-risk healthcare workers in high care settings, high risk first responders, long-term care facility residents, and all other workers at risk in healthcare settings. 

Phase 1B includes all people 65 years of age and older, as well as, all people 50 or older, living in multi-generational households (homes where individuals from 2 or more generations reside, such as an elder and a grandchild). 

While the distribution plan of ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated is proving challenging, further complicating the efforts is the unfortunate reality that the Covid-19 pandemic has turned into a political issue.

As one might expect, there are many different perspectives, with a variety of implications, when considering the reality ahead.

Dr. Richard Levine, a pediatrician with Skagit Pediatrics, offered his perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination, and the long road ahead. 

I believe the vaccine is the best chance we have of keeping ourselves safe and beating this pandemic,” says Dr. Levine. 

Levine has received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, as a health care worker, and says that he has experienced some minor side effects of the vaccine, but still ultimately recommends that when it becomes available for everyone, they should get it.

“For side effects- I had some tenderness in my shoulder for a day or two.  I’ll be getting my second dose in a couple weeks and they say many people feel a little run down- like the flu for a day after the second dose especially.  That said- I would take the risk of that over the risk of COVID disease any day!”

 The implications for local school districts have also presented unique challenges. I sat down with David McKellar, Director of Special Education with Arlington Public Schools, and he shared with me how schools are dealing with this issue.

Sedro-Woolley School District

Reopening schools for in-person learning presents many unique challenges. With so many students in close proximity, and families with a variety of beliefs regarding the dangers and risks associated with the virus, there is a huge burden on schools to make smart decisions to keep everyone safe. 

Much of that risk management comes from ensuring that as many teachers and staff are vaccinated as possible. 

“We are not going to say it’s mandatory, but we prefer that people do,” McKellar says.

The process of vaccinating school district staff is underway for schools all over the country, and Arlington has begun making it available to staff, as recently as two weeks ago.  Staff working with students who are susceptible to bio contact (feeding, diapering, e.t.c)  were selected, as were those staff who operate with a license from the WA State Health Department. This proved difficult but Krissa Kramer, District Nurse, got it approved.   A potential of about 45 staff were vaccinated, with some certain and some classified. 

Despite this effort, the reality is that the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, not currently allowed for anyone under 16 years old and not mandatory for all school district staff. Therefore,  schools still need to have a plan in place for ensuring that extra precautions are being taken to make sure everyone is safe.

“We have a screening system for all students, and an attestation – which is a series of questions that must be answered prior to admitting students into the school building.”

While many people are literally lining up for the opportunity to receive the vaccination, there continues to be many that are not comfortable with the vaccine.  

Despite the science, there is a large population of United States citizens that doubt the dangers inherent in the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and are unwilling to be vaccinated or allow their children to be vaccinated.

Erik Beauvais, a local entrepreneur who also believes in a holistic approach to medicine believes in the healing power of essential oils and a naturopathic approach to medicine. He shared his beliefs and insight with me.

“It’s not that I believe that vaccines don’t work. I just believe that not everyone can handle vaccines (one size fits all) and two, when you look at the vaccine schedule and adjuncts used (mercury, squalene, aluminum, polysorbates, and propylene glycol) in them, the potential for side effects and damage becomes apparent,” says Beauvais.      

He believes in natural remedies to cure illnesses, and there are many people out there that feel the same way, but he has made it clear he is supportive of whatever decisions people make with their bodies.

“My beliefs don’t impact my opinion of other people vaccinating their children as long as parents have access to relevant and potential side effects. Doctors must be made accountable for informed consent,” says Beauvais.

 

The Sedro-Woolley Cubs Newspaper conducted a poll to see where staff, students, and families lie, with regard to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The results for students indicated that 41.7% of students wouldn’t get it, and 38.8%  of students would. For staff, the results were 83.7% of teachers would, and 7% wouldn’t.

Since some schools aren’t planning on making it mandatory, they will need to figure out how to act responsibly to keep everyone safe.  

In an informational survey on Instagram  asking who would  be willing to take the vaccine, 126 people responded. 49% said yes and 51% said no. 

Despite the science behind the vaccine, and the push for as many people as possible to get vaccinated, it appears that many people remain doubtful.

Unfortunately, public health and safety has become politicized to the point that many discount the seriousness of the virus, and therefore, do not intend to be vaccinated. 

Only time will tell what the impacts of this will be for our communities and schools. 

No vaccine is perfect- but  so far the COVID vaccine looks very effective – like 95-98% effective in preventing disease in the short term.  We do not know how long that immunity will last and if boosters will be needed. We have only been able to see how effective it is for several months so far but for those few months – it appears to be doing its job,” says Dr. Levine.