The effect of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Forsyth County

Shots+fired.+While+we+are+unsure+of+the+long+term+science+behind+the+shot%2C+researchers+are+adamant+about+vaccinating+as+many+people+as+possible.++The+vaccination+process+began+in+February+and+March%2C+and+hopefully+will+continue+throughout+the+year.+%22We+don%E2%80%99t+know+yet%2C%22+says+Nurse+Ceniceros.+%22We%E2%80%99re+going+to+know+soon-+whether+the+vaccine+actually+stops+the+spread+of+COVID.+It%E2%80%99s+a+short+study%2C+not+a+long+study.+I%E2%80%99ve+gotten+both+my+shots+and+I%27m+still+wearing+my+mask.+And+something+really+cool+is+that+this+time+last+year%2C+I+was+at+another+school+and+we+were+counting+the+number+of+kids+that+had+the+flu+daily.+We%E2%80%99d+be+like%2C+%E2%80%9COkay%2C+slash-mark+A%2C+A%2C+BB%2C+AB%2C+A%2C%E2%80%9D+and+this+year+we%E2%80%99ve+only+had+one+flu.%22

Image used from Pixabay under Creative Commons.

Shots fired. While we are unsure of the long term science behind the shot, researchers are adamant about vaccinating as many people as possible. The vaccination process began in February and March, and hopefully will continue throughout the year. “We don’t know yet,” says Nurse Ceniceros. “We’re going to know soon- whether the vaccine actually stops the spread of COVID. It’s a short study, not a long study. I’ve gotten both my shots and I’m still wearing my mask. And something really cool is that this time last year, I was at another school and we were counting the number of kids that had the flu daily. We’d be like, “Okay, slash-mark A, A, BB, AB, A,” and this year we’ve only had one flu.”

Naisha Roy and Grace Drawdy

In March of 2020, the battle with the deadly Coronavirus started in Forsyth County. Now, almost a year later, the battle that has taken the lives of millions of individuals across the globe is still ongoing. During the beginning of the pandemic, governments all over the world struggled to make the proper decisions regarding the health and well-being of their citizens; however, after seeing the deadly effects of the virus, many knew one of the major components to battling this virus was the introduction to a virus. After a little over a year of this battle and restless research for an effective vaccine, the time has come to administer and hopefully begin protecting the public from the virus that has ruined lives. In mid to late December, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccination strictly for emergency use. Then, they slowly approved a vaccination from the company Moderna shortly after. 

As of right now, there are two vaccination brands on the market that are approved and administered: Moderna and Pfizer. Both Moderna and Pfizer use the same method of how the virus enters the body. Both vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to deliver the virus to the cells. This triggers the cells (maybe say vaccinated cells) to make the surface proteins that are found on the COVID-19 virus. This ensures if the virus enters the body, our immune systems can recognize the pathogen, and hopefully be able to fight off the virus. Both vaccines require 2 shots, one as a priming dose (which helps your body recognize the virus), and the other is a booster shot (which strengthens the original shot), spaced 28 days apart.

Our school nurse, Ms. Ceniceros, explained the way the vaccine works and her thoughts on the treatment. She also shed some light on how it was developed and tested, putting it in high-school terms.

“Rather than putting pieces of the virus in your body, [the vaccine] puts in RNA that then teaches your body to fight the virus,” said Nurse Ceniceros. “As for how it’s tested, my husband was actually a volunteer to get tested. They take a bunch of people in what’s called a ‘Randomized double-blind placebo method’ where some of them get a shot of saline and others get the inoculation.”

 While both vaccines have the same essential procedure, some requirements differentiate them. As for the Pfizer vaccine, individuals 16 years and older qualify to receive the vaccine; whereas individuals must be 18 years and older to receive the Moderna vaccine. Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved a vaccine suitable for people under the age of 16.

With many doses of the vaccine rolling out in Georgia, several members of our community are recipients of the vaccination. Specifically in Forsyth County, the Cumming City Council recently approved the use of the Cumming Fairgrounds as a vaccination site for Forsyth Residents.

In addition, Forsyth County has published a 3-phase plan in order to distribute the vaccine. Adults 65+ were eligible to get the vaccine from January 11th; following this, the county also released a list of other eligible citizens which included essential workers and emergency responders.

“Healthcare providers (hospital staff, public health clinical staff, EMS and other first responders, long term care facility staff and urgent care facility staff) are examples of people who will be included in this phase,” the website reads. 

Residents of Forsyth County who qualify for the vaccination should visit the District 2 Public Health website, where they can find all available dates and locations in order to get both doses of the vaccine. In addition, the website details statistics about the cases in Forsyth County and nearby counties, testing locations and appointments, and information on how the vaccine works and who should take it. 

Cindy Bunker, a grandparent of a sophomore here at South Forsyth, detailed her experience with the vaccine. 

“I had no problems after either shot… I have felt 100% fine,” she says. “I definitely would recommend that everyone should have [the vaccine].” 

Ms. Ceniceros has also expressed her recommendations for the vaccine. She felt that it was integral to flattening the curve for this disease as well as returning back to normalcy.

“A day or two of discomfort as opposed to hospitalizations or me causing someone else to get sick is definitely worth it,” the nurse advised.

In addition to taking the vaccine, the CDC still advises that people wear masks and take the necessary precautions after getting the vaccine. Since experts are still conducting research on the exact nature of the vaccine, they are not sure if it prevents spreading and transmission to others. This could put people who haven’t gotten the vaccine at risk. Therefore, staying 6 feet apart, masking if possible, and constantly sanitizing and washing hands will still be integral.

Ms. Ceniceros also shared an interesting detail about masking and how these precautions have reduced the spread of another common disease in high school: the flu. She relayed a story about tracking flu cases in schools and how the precautions for COVID-19 significantly reduced the type and severity of the flu as well. 

“I think [the reduction of cases] is because people are now more cognizant about spreading germs, washing hands, and wearing masks and when they can, stay distanced, which is cutting down on spread,” she remarked. “I think we will be more conscious as a society about germs just not COVID, but other winter bugs.”

Our school epidemiology teacher, Ms. Kelsey Parent, elaborated a bit more on the science of the vaccine. Her interview is broken into the slideshow below:

With at least 5 vaccination sites currently operating in Forsyth County, the vaccine’s effects on our community are slowly but surely increasing. While we don’t know everything about the COVID-19 vaccines and their effects, the rollout remains an extremely important step in Forsyth County’s journey during these times, as well as returning to normalcy as a society.