Students get vaccinated

By Ryder Lariviere

As COVID-19 continues to rage across the world, the vaccine roll-out in Marin County to 12- to 15-year-olds, including younger students at Branson, marks another important milestone in the fight against the pandemic, offering more hope for us all. 

On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for 12- to 15-year-old adolescents. In the following days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health made their recommendations, approving the vaccine for usage in Marin County. By the evening of May 13, the first appointments for adolescent vaccination began to open up.

Emily Easom, Branson’s Covid and Health Coordinator, said that the goal of the student vaccinations was “ to get everyone vaccinated to keep each other safe, and get our students back to a sense of normalcy.”

Marin County initially set up a vaccine prioritization system for people in the Phase 1A and 1B groups back in February. These included health care personnel, frontline essential workers, educators and people over the age of 65. As the vaccine rollout continued, appointments were opened up to the Phase 2 and 3 groups, providing the opportunity for the general public of 16 years of age and older to be vaccinated.

Of the 260,000 residents living in Marin, roughly 60 percent, or about 157,000 people, have been fully vaccinated to date. However, with this relatively high percentage of vaccinations, Marin County hasn’t reached full immunization, estimated to be around 90 percent of the population. Furthermore, as of May 16, there are 103 students out of a total of 320 at Branson who are fully vaccinated, roughly 32 percent of the student population. It’s important to note that these numbers change on a daily basis.

“There’s still a high population of unvaccinated people in Marin, and there have been cases within that population. So again, we’re just encouraging all individuals, especially in the Branson community, to get vaccinated,” said Easom.

Until recently, the race for full immunization was at a standstill — upwards of 50,000 youth in Marin had still not received vaccine doses.

Marin’s Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said “as we open to a wider age group, [there] is a golden opportunity to reach that level of community immunity we’ve been aiming for.”

Meanwhile, Aria Saluja, a freshman at Branson who received the first dose of the vaccine in the initial wave of available adolescent appointments, described the vaccination as “an extremely easy process.”

“My mom made an appointment. I arrived five minutes prior … submitted some paperwork and then I received the shot on my left arm. I had to wait in the pharmacy for 15 minutes after the shot to ensure there were no side effects, and then I was free to go,” Saluja said.

Alexander LaMonica, another freshman, hopes the impact of the adolescent vaccinations will eventually provide a safer environment for the entire Bulls community.

“Hopefully with the vaccination program, we will be able to build up enough immunity to safely return to school the way it used to beI’m most looking forward to not wearing a mask and being able to see my friends again,” he said.

When asked what other message he would want to share with the community, LaMonica said, “As someone who has received the first dose, I can assure you that it’s perfectly safe. Continue to follow all COVID-19 practices … I know it can be frustrating, but just hang on … do what you can to help suppress it.

Easom echoes a similar sentiment, “We’re not out of the woods yet … COVID is still out there and we need to take this seriously.  We’ve done a great job so far at it, so we need to keep pushing through this last little bit.”