We first began to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel when vaccinations began being distributed in December of 2020. About one year later, more than 197,363,116 Americans, that is 59.6% of our population, are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Recently, major progress has been made in furthering the impact the vaccine will have on keeping the population safe as a whole. Booster shots have now been made available for ages 16 and up. Additionally, the FDA has now approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-12.
According to OSF Healthcare, a booster shot adds additional strength to the original vaccine you received. It is like a way of reminding the body’s immune system about the virus it needs to defend against. It gives your immune system a boost. If you received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you are eligible to get your booster six months after the original shot. Originally, these vaccines were only available to ages 18 and up, but as of recently, the FDA has approved them for a minimum age of 16. This gives about half of San Marcos’ student body the opportunity to get the booster, and make our campus a safer place for ourselves and others. Booster shots are now being distributed in pharmacies such as CVS (which takes both appointments and walk-ins), as well as multiple clinics throughout Santa Barbara County.
The last thing we want to see is another surge in cases like we had last winter. With the appearance of the new Omicron Variant of COVID-19, booster shots are even more recommended.
“For now, the existing boosters are the best defense against the new strain and the highly transmissible Delta variant,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci to CNBC. The World Health Organization has estimated that the Omicron Variant can spread two times faster than the previous Delta Variant. With the introduction of booster shots to improve our immunity, we will have a stronger shot against fighting the Omicron.
Another major point of progress that recently occurred in the COVID-19 vaccination process was the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for ages five through eleven. According to the CDC, Pfizer has created this vaccine with a slightly different formula made for younger immune systems. Even though this new age group is less likely to see harmful effects from COVID-19, they can still contract the virus and transmit it to others.
According to Dr. Norma Perez, a pediatrician and medical director of AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles,
“Vaccinating children will be a crucial step toward achieving herd immunity, where virus transmission tapers off because so many people have been exposed through vaccination or by becoming infected.” As herd immunity develops throughout all ages of the population, we can move further towards normalcy. For children aged 5-12, this means significant changes in their school lives. These are children around the elementary school level, and are used to mask wearing in class like high school and middle school level kids are. However, because they were unable to be vaccinated before, they had to go through weekly, sometimes daily (depending on the school) COVID-19 testing. As you can imagine, this can be a tricky process with such young ages, both for children and school staff.
Information on California’s official COVID-19 website says the federal government has planned to give 1.2 million doses of the vaccine to California, which is statistically enough to vaccinate all 5-11 year olds in the state within the next few weeks. Vaccines are being distributed throughout 4,000 different clinics and schools in California.
“Vaccines are how we end this pandemic, and the ability to vaccinate more children who have remained vulnerable to Covid-19 strengthens our fight against this deadly virus. Californians ages 5-11 can now get the same robust protection that has helped save countless lives,” said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in an article with EdSource, an organization that highlights the success of young students.
Overall, both the availability of booster shots and the administration of vaccines for ages 5-11 are major steps toward returning to normalcy from the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, booster shots and vaccines are available for free at pharmacies and clinics all through Santa Barbara. Get fully vaccinated, and boost your immunity, to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19.