Nazarath faculty and staff receive COVID vaccine

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Photo by Ashylnn Rodriguez

Theology teacher Tony Miranda received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today

Emily Sackley

Currently, there are two companies that have gotten emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to distribute their COVID vaccines. Both have proven very effective: Pfizer’s vaccine’s efficacy is 95% and Moderna’s is 94.1%. Both vaccines must be administered twice – an initial injection and then a booster shot 21-28 later.

There has been some concern about the rate at which the vaccine has been developed, tested and brought to market, but the experts urge the public to trust the data and get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn.The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that vaccines are safe. “Clinical trials of all vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use, including COVID-19 vaccines.”

The CDC explains the phased allocation of the vaccine on their website. Phase 1 includes first responders, essential front line workers, those who live and work in long term care facilities, health care personnel, older adults and those who are high risk. Phase 2 includes teachers, school staff, childcare workers, critical workers in high risk settings and other high risk individuals as well as all older adults not included in Phase 1. Phase 3 includes middle-aged individuals, young adults, children and those who did not receive the vaccine in Phase 1 or 2.

I was happy to have the opportunity to get it so soon.”

— Jon Paul Jurasas

While the world has been using mitigations like mask-wearing, social distancing and restricting behaviors, those alone will not bring the end of the pandemic. Mass vaccination is a big part of bringing the pandemic to an end. The Mayo Clinic said, “Vaccines to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are perhaps the best hope for ending the pandemic,” and “Getting vaccinated also might help protect people around you from COVID-19, particularly people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”

A commonly asked question and concern about the COVID vaccine is whether or not it will alter one’s DNA. The CDC emphasized, “COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.” Also, this type of vaccine does not contain a live virus. The job of mRNA vaccines is to teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response to the virus.

Some additional benefits of receiving the vaccine include building natural immunity and greatly reducing the chance of getting COVID. The CDC also mentioned, “Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.”

While the vaccine is proven to highly reduce the risk of illness, Mayo Clinic and the CDC remind the public that we should still be cautious and take the same precautions in order to ensure that the virus will not spread. These precautions include avoiding close contact, wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and staying home if you feel sick.

While many of the claims of danger resulting from receiving this vaccine can be refuted, there are potential side effects including, but not limited to pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, and joint pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Because of the potential of these side effects, Mayo Clinic suggests that individuals be monitored for 15 minutes after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

This protocol was put in place for those Nazareth faculty and staff members who received their vaccine today. 

The environment in the Romano Family Theater where the vaccine clinic was set up was relaxed, and the teachers who were interviewed for this story seemed genuinely excited and relieved. There were two nurses who were administering the shots up on the stage – which was fitting for this occasion – because usually, getting a vaccine is a mundane thing, but this was an incredible feat. Phase 2 just began two days ago and many eligible individuals have had trouble scheduling their own vaccinations.

That is not the case for Nazareth employees. Director of Human Resources Cheryl Viliunas , along with the support of the administration and the school nurse were able to offer this opportunity to the staff in record time.

Viliunas was able to get the vaccine to Nazareth so soon because of her connections with Osco. “We were very fortunate because we went through the same company that hosted our flu shot clinics for many years. So, because of our loyalty, they were able to schedule us,” explained Viliunas.

Viliunas goes on to say how happy she is that she was able to help bring this opportunity to the faculty and staff, and she can see their positive reactions. “They are thrilled. They are happy to get the shot. Our teachers have been coming here since August, so now we’re just happy to provide this for them.”

Three teachers who had already received their shots and were being observed for the recommended 15-minute period afterwards, shared their thoughts on receiving the vaccine. 

Social Studies teacher Jon Paul Jurasas said, “I feel great! I was happy to have the opportunity to get it so soon. So – it’s excellent – I’m excited.”

English Teacher Jeanne Paliatka shared that she had been worried about coming to school but now feels a great sense of relief. “It’s sort of like getting a golden ticket. It’s amazing, it’s exciting.” But she realizes that not everyone has had such luck and so has mixed feelings. “I feel a little guilty because there are a lot of older people who haven’t been able to get it yet, and so while I’m excited to get it myself – my mom, for example, she‘s 84, and she hasn’t had the opportunity to get it yet.”

Science teacher Kyle Tassone is equally excited to have received the vaccine today. He said, ”I feel great that we were able to get it so early. I know a lot of people are still waiting for it.” When asked if he might feel or act differently now that he has gotten his first dose, he replied, “I’ll be less worried. But, not until more of the population is vaccinated do I think things will go back to normal.”