With vaccine rollout going strong in Connecticut, it would not be surprising if most of the eligible KO student population would be able to access a vaccine by the beginning of the 2021 school year. However, being vaccinated doesn’t change the fact that students should stay just as vigilant as they have been throughout the year. Nonetheless, the KO News editorial board believes that students and faculty should be required to be vaccinated in order to attend school in person, provided that they are in the eligible age group and don’t have a religious or medical exemption.
In almost every state, it is required for students to get other vaccines for infections such as polio and measles before they can attend school. The same should apply for the COVID-19 vaccine, seeing as it is just as important. The term “herd immunity” is thrown around often, but what does it truly mean? “Herd immunity” is when a certain percentage of the population is protected from an infection to the point that the likelihood of individuals getting the virus who don’t have immunity is significantly reduced. It is how we manage the flu and other diseases that have been rendered obsolete due to vaccines.
Currently, there is a lot of stigma surrounding vaccinations and whether or not they are completely safe, but most of these myths are not in fact true and should not cause significant panic. Recently, the government halted the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it has led to complications with blood clots. Those cases were extremely rare, only affecting six women between the ages of 18 and 48 out of the over 150 million people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson. Furthermore, the only vaccine available to the vast majority of the KO students is the Pfizer vaccine – currently approved for individuals 16 and up – which has a 95% efficacy rate in preventing severe symptoms. As of right now, none of the other vaccines have been approved for middle school and high school-aged students. But currently, researchers are testing the Pfizer vaccine on children between the ages of 12 and 15, which means the entire Upper School and most of the Middle School have the potential to be vaccinated.
The editorial board would also emphasize that even if every student who is able to get vaccinated does so, students and staff will have to continue wearing masks. Vaccines don’t entirely prevent being able to catch COVID-19, but they will mitigate the symptoms, keeping every student and faculty member healthier.
Finally, if KO adopted the vaccination requirement policy, it would be in line with what colleges are planning on doing for their fall semester. Their rationale is that students are in constant contact with one another, making campuses “breeding grounds for transmission.” This remains true for high schools, as we continue to participate in sports and performances. Both of these activities can result in easy transmission of the virus, and there’s also the added layer of KO continuing to participate in sports games with other schools. KO can’t control policies from other schools, but we can control how our students will be able to manage and limit interactions with people outside of our own campus bubble.
For right now, all anyone can control is whether or not they choose to get a COVID-19 vaccine. KO is offering all eligible students the opportunity to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the UConn Health campus in Farmington on April 26 and 27, and the editorial board would implore you to get vaccinated. We would also add that while it is important for everyone to do their own research, KO should make an effort to help actively educate students about the benefits of getting a vaccine. The sooner everyone is protected, the sooner KO will be able to return to a bit of normalcy.