BY: GOWRI ABHINANDA

Since March 2020, the United States has been affected by the COVID-19 virus as lockdowns occurred and schools became virtual. About 361,000 people lost their lives, and the number is rising. As the situation evolves, different companies and experts are working to create a vaccine to prevent more individuals from being infected by the virus. Senior and founder of The One World Project Raisa Ali said her organization aims to support health care workers by distributing masks and supports vaccine distribution to front-line workers.

“I’m very hopeful for the change this vaccine can bring to everyone, especially for the health care workers that have gone through so much from [lacking] resources to facing trauma,” Ali said. “For those that put everything at risk for our own well-being, they deserve the vaccine first and foremost.”

Ali said vaccines are a crucial factor in providing protection against COVID-19. She said she looks forward to seeing the reassurance these vaccines bring to individuals affected by the pandemic. 

“The vaccine will bring about a new relief, especially for those at higher risk,” Ali said. “A lot of families will feel comforted knowing their elders are safe, families will be able to hug again, people can travel back home and empty hearts being filled are all what goodness the vaccine can bring.”

Meanwhile, senior Zachary Schmerr said he does not feel comfortable with the COVID-19 vaccines. He said he is distrustful of the vaccines, as he feels those administering the vaccines may hold an ulterior motive. 

“I don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccines, because there’s a risk that the government can have underlying purposes,” Schmerr said. “They might be trying to inject microchips into us, [or] they might be using it to track or control us, which violates our civil liberties.”

Schmerr said he plans to avoid taking the COVID-19 vaccine when available to the public. He said he recognizes the vaccine has acquired the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval but that he is wary of the risks that may come with it.

“I would probably not take the vaccine, because I hate needles and trust my immune system, but if they give me some kind of reward for taking it, maybe I would,” Schmerr said. “I’m not exactly worried about complications from the vaccine, since it was approved by the FDA, but I’ve seen movies and videos where the government was putting microchips on those they vaccinated, so we have to evaluate these factors.”

AP Biology teacher Jaime Dillon said the most popular COVID-19 vaccines instruct the body to create spike proteins, which are specific instructions on how to fight the virus that are sent to a genetic strand called messenger RNA (mRNA); exposure to the virus is not required. Traditional vaccines; however, usually expose a patient to an inactive form of the virus so the body can form antibodies or virus-fighting proteins. She said it is important that people understand what the vaccine is to reduce the stigma towards taking the vaccine.

“People get confused about treatment versus prevention; the vaccines are used to prevent disease, and this is a newer type of vaccine [that] focuses on the mRNA,” Dillon said. “The methodology is a little different, but it still works by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies, so people shouldn’t be too worried about it.”

Dillon said learning about the science behind vaccines and medicine is vital to prevent distrust among individuals like Schmerr. She said she believes tragic instances like the Tuskegee project, which aimed to test a drug to combat syphilis but ended up killing 128 Black men, have contributed to skepticism towards science.

“It’s sad because all it takes is just one rogue doctor to create this fear, like the one that perpetuated the myth of vaccines causing autism,” Dillon said. “There’s this misconception of science, but people need to recognize vaccines have increased our lifespans; I respect everyone’s opinion, but science is not opinion, science is based on data, and we need people to trust in the vaccine to prevent further loss of life.” 

Like Ali, Dillon said she wants to take the vaccine to prevent the virus’s further spread. She said she misses the activities and people she was able to interact with before the pandemic arrived and feels the vaccine will restore this lifestyle.

“I feel so relieved that there’s a vaccine underway, [as] I want my life back, I want to be able to visit my parents and enjoy family and friends gathering [and] I want to get to know my students, and this has been very difficult in the online format,” Dillon said. “I believe that this vaccine is the key to us returning to normalcy.”

Dillon said she is aware there are potential complications with the COVID-19 vaccine, like having a sore arm, redness or fever but is not worried about taking the vaccine. She said these side effects are similar to the side effects of other vaccines for those with allergies.

“I feel that this vaccine is safe, and hopefully, people will trust in science, and we will all get through this together,” Dillon said. “I one-hundred-percent believe [that] vaccines are safe, [as] with any treatment, there are side effects, you have to have informed consent, and you have to know what [you’re] getting.”

Ali said despite the newfound hope that the vaccine has brought, it is essential to engage in preventative measures until there is a complete guarantee that the vaccine is effective. She said she would continue to wear her mask and socially distance but remains optimistic regarding the vaccine.

“Until we know for sure that this vaccine is 150 percent effective in granting humans immunity, we should continue to wear masks and socially distance to be on the side of caution,” Ali said. “If we stick together, we can pull through and make it to a brighter side, and the vaccine is only going to ensure that we make it there.”