By: Sophia Prieto – Student Journalist
After a full year of struggling against the pandemic and recent months of alarmingly high infection rates and death tolls, the country has recently been offered a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of small, multi-dose vials. On the morning of Monday, December 14, the first non-trial COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in the United States after months of clinical trials. As per recommendation of the CDC, the initial wave of vaccinations were designated for healthcare personnel and residents of long-term healthcare facilities. Nearly a week later, on Sunday, December 20, the CDC made an additional recommendation for the second and third phases of vaccination rollout. Phase 1B would advance the vaccine to adults who are ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers. The latter phase 1C would do the same for adults who fall between ages 65 to 74, as well as people ages 16 to 74 with high-risk health conditions, and other essential workers.
Many, including scientists, healthcare workers, those in the media, and a decent size of the general public, regard the emergence of several effective vaccines as the beginning of the end of a long, painful fight with the virus. It will be at least a few months until the rest of the country will be eligible to receive the vaccine. The recommendation to prioritize healthcare and essential workers as of now, who are undoubtedly the backbone in maintaining societal function, is the right place to start to end the spread of COVID-19.
Essential workers did not have the luxury of working from home throughout the pandemic. Oftentimes mandatory contact with the public meant there were instances where they could potentially come into contact with an individual who may be infected. Those chances understandably altered how standard functions were conducted.
Officer Reyes, an essential frontline worker from Passaic County, explains how the pandemic changed how he worked. “Well, the way it changed at work is that we’re taking proper precautions such as wearing PPE and sanitizing the cars, which didn’t happen on a day-to-day basis before the pandemic,” said Reyes. “Always having to wear a mask, always washing our hands with hand sanitizer. Now they installed a temperature machine to get your temperature checked, and if you have any symptoms you have to go home,” he followed.
Per the CDC’s website, similar precautions such as mask wearing and frequent handwashing are important measures that can decelerate the spread of COVID-19. Although standing six feet away from others and steering clear from crowds are methods everyday citizens can take to protect themselves, those steps may not always be possible for essential workers, which places them at higher risk at contracting coronavirus. These considerations were taken into account during the CDC meetings on Dec. 6 and Dec. 20, when essential and frontline workers were suggested to have their vaccines prioritized, respectively.
Officer Reyes thought the success of the vaccine candidates from companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson was great. “I think it’s going to alleviate a lot of the infection rate, and it’s going to turn things back to somewhat normal for the people that do take it,” said Reyes. I guess it’s all about testing, because it’s going to take some time for it to kick in,” he followed.
Reyes said that he himself had no concerns about the vaccine, and that he wanted to help in slowing the spread in whatever way possible. His only suggestion for those who do feel apprehensive regarding the vaccine is to “seek a doctor’s advice if you have any underlying conditions.”
So, when asked if he would receive the vaccine when offered to him, his prior praise of the vaccine and its rollout seemingly hinted at an answer. Certainly, with the swiftness of someone whose mind was surely already made up, Officer Reyes said nothing other than a confident , “yes.”