Written by Sheryl Chen

Almost a year after the COVID-19 vaccine became available to all high school-aged students, the Bears are long overdue for their booster shots. Despite boosters being approved for all high schoolers as of May 12th, 2021, only 48.55% of students in the District have gotten their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of March 25th, according to data from District secretary Alexia Farias. Because the vaccine loses efficacy over time, M-A students should take the time they have over spring break to get boosted in order to safeguard their health.

For many students who got their COVID-19 vaccines soon after they became available, their protection against the virus is waning. According to a study published by The Lancet, the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy against infection drops dramatically over time—it is only 47% effective six months after receiving two doses, down from 88% at its peak after one month. The Moderna vaccine suffers the same problem: in a study published in Science, researchers found that the Moderna vaccine’s efficacy fell from 89.2% to 58.0% six months later. As with the flu shot, people ought to keep updated on their vaccines to reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19.

With millions of people in the U.S traveling over spring break, COVID-19 may be a greater threat when students come back to M-A, especially as more people begin to de-mask in classrooms. This is exacerbated by the spread of the Omicron subvariant BA. 2, which is transmitted 80% faster than the earlier Omicron variant and is driving most COVID-19 cases globally. No one wants to miss school for two weeks and come back to mounds of late work and tests to make up, which is why getting the booster is a worthwhile decision. Lying in bed groggy for ten days is not fun, either.

For teens, there is an added benefit to receiving the booster shot. As Sallie Permar, the Chair of Pediatrics and a viral-infections specialist at Weill Cornell, told the Atlantic, younger people have more robust immune systems, and as a result, they develop stronger post-vaccine protection. She said, “You might be better off getting three doses before you’re all grown up.” This way, you can get longer-lasting immunity towards COVID-19 variants in the future. 

Getting boosted is all the more important for people who have already contracted Omicron, given that the variant reduces the efficacy of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines. Research shows that if a person who has recovered from the virus receives a booster shot, the shot can help replenish their protection against COVID-19.

For both Delta and Omicron variants, the booster COVID-19 shot is 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations from COVID-19.

The booster is also proven to create no worse local or systemic side effects than the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. For those who have not received any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, they might as well also use spring break to get this done, given that the vaccine will be a requirement across California schools starting on July 1st.

M-A provided at-home COVID-19 tests to students this week, and students are recommended to take these tests immediately before returning to school on April 4th. Walk-in appointments for all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are available at the Fair Oaks Health Center in Redwood City and the Woodland Apartments in East Palo Alto. You can view a schedule here for places where walk-ins are welcome. You can also schedule an appointment at a vaccine distribution center near you, such as Safeway or CVS, at myturn.gov.

Sheryl Chen is a junior and in her second year in journalism. She hopes to expand her knowledge on issues pertinent to M-A and the local community. She is also a member of M-A's debate team.

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