‘Stay vigilant:’ Students encouraged to observe COVID-19 rules as vaccinations become available

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Sam Ballast

“It is unknown whether vaccinated individuals are still able to carry the virus and thus infect other people.”

As COVID-19 vaccinations become available, students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to get vaccinated and continue to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

Mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations began in late 2020, although studies on the efficacy and effects of the vaccine have been conducted since April of 2020. The results of these studies are available in a National Institutes of Health database that tracks over fifty thousand individuals. They will conclude in January 2023.

“This development stage is called the post-marketing stage,” biology professor Anding Shen said. Although the current stage of vaccination is popularly referred to as mass vaccination, Shen noted that massive studies are still being conducted to determine the vaccine’s efficacy and effectiveness, as well as to determine risk factors and side effects.

It is not known currently how long immunity conferred by the vaccine lasts because the studies have not concluded. “Beyond the six months that individuals have been tracked, we don’t know,” Shen said. “We just don’t have data. It’s unfolding as we experience it.”

It is also unknown whether vaccinated individuals are still able to carry the virus and thus infect other people. “There currently isn’t data showing that you can still spread the virus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t,” Prof. Shen said.

Shen encouraged students to get the vaccine despite the unknowns. She compared the COVID-19 vaccine to the influenza vaccine, which is administered on an annual basis and has a lower efficacy than the current data for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines indicates. “We get used to getting the flu vaccine every year. It’s totally acceptable. It’s better to get a shot than to be hiding at home.” 

“You should get the vaccine now to be part of the development process,” Shen said. “When more people get the vaccine, we have more data for the future.”

“The vaccine data so far looks promising,” said biology professor and Calvin COVID Response Team member Erica Boldenow. Boldenow noted that she disliked the regulations as much as anyone else. “I know it’s annoying to have to wear masks and stay apart from each other all the time,” Boldenow said. “But it’s going to be awhile before we get back to what we consider normal.”

Until normalcy returns, it is important for everyone to follow COVID regulations. “We need to remain vigilant,” Boldenow said, “because this is the time that all of our practices and procedures will actually result in a good outcome.”