Vaccine Eligibility Opens for New Yorkers Over 16

Governor Andrew Cuomo widened the eligibility of receiving the vaccine to include people 16 and older on April 6, expanding the ongoing vaccination efforts.

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By Shirley Tan

Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded the eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to include people 16 and older on April 6. This announcement is progress towards a return to normalcy for Stuyvesant students, many of whom meet the age requirement to receive the vaccine.

Many students were surprised by the earliness of their eligibility. “I thought that they’d do a much slower rollout: seniors now, starting with 40 year-olds, then 30, then 20, then teenagers,” sophomore Sophia Eiden said. “I would get it if they made bigger increments too, but just opening it up to [those 16 and older] straight-up kinda shocked me.”

Senior Jesse Hammer added in an e-mail interview, “I did not expect to be able to get my vaccine in early April. I was expecting no earlier than maybe early-to-mid May, but then the new presidential administration proved itself startlingly more competent than expected and here we are.”

While the eligibility opens up the opportunity for more vaccination, a few are concerned about the inequity in distribution. “I'm very disappointed by the demographic disparities found in who has been getting vaccinated,” Hammer said. “I know I have benefited from those disparities, being white and from a fairly wealthy area, but the fact that I got it earlier is cold comfort to me if that means that someone who may have needed or deserved the vaccine more got it later than they should have.”

Some students eligible for the vaccine had already taken their first doses of the vaccine, reporting mild symptoms. “The only side effect I've experienced is the sore arm,” sophomore Daphne Qin said in an e-mail interview. “I was a bit worried that I would be bedridden and unable to complete my homework.”

For others, symptoms were much stronger. “My whole family, including me, had a slight fever and muscle pain for both doses, though I think the muscle pain was worse for my parents,” junior Maisha Sreya said in an e-mail interview. “The intense muscle pain was mostly caused by the second dose, but we got fevers [from] both [doses].”

With the rise of new COVID-19 strain variants, however, some are still uncertain of the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing COVID-19. “I’m a little worried that [the vaccine] won’t be very effective against variations or it won’t be as effective as they say it is [...] I assumed that it would be complete coverage, but you can still get sick from [the virus],” Eiden said.

Others feel that variants may further cloud future prospects. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we slip back into a COVID state, assuming that the virus mutates enough to avoid being affected by the vaccine, but we’ll have to wait and see until then,” junior Andy Lin said in an e-mail interview.

Biology teacher Dr. Maria Nedwidek-Moore provided her outlook on the future of variants as more students get vaccinated. “Variants will eventually be diminished, but we need to be careful because if more mutations occur, then people will keep getting sick,” she said.

While Dr. Nedwidek-Moore acknowledges the public’s reluctance to receive the vaccine, she assures that the vaccines are safe and effective. “There’s a variety of hesitancy and I can understand people’s concerns. People don’t expect something to be so effective with something that was made within forty days,” she said. “However, people’s lives are being ruined by this and at this point, [the risk that comes with] getting COVID is a lot higher than [the risk that comes with] getting the vaccine.”

For an area as congested as Stuyvesant, many believe that it is necessary for students to receive the vaccine. “When students are in close quarters and eating in the same space, it is obligatory [to get the vaccine] to make sure herd immunity is reached to the greatest extent,” Dr. Nedwidek-Moore said.

Overall, the vaccine eligibility brought enthusiasm, especially for those looking forward to reaching immunity against COVID-19. “I’m excited to just be able to go out without worrying,” Eiden said. “I’ll be able to see [my grandma] and there’s no risk with no problem.”

With the update, many hope life will be restored to how it was before the pandemic. “Kids younger than 16 will be eligible for the vaccine as well in the near future, which hopefully means that schools will be reopening soon,” junior Diya Rao said in an e-mail interview. “With more people getting vaccinated, I believe that most places (stores, workplaces, sports facilities, etc) will begin to reopen.”

Others are eager to return to Stuyvesant as well. “I am looking forward to being able to go back to in-person school and seeing my friends more often,” junior Nour Kastoun said in an e-mail interview. “I'm also really excited to go back to in-person club activities (and hopefully a non-virtual SING!), as well as being able to spend time with people indoors with less risk.”

For Spanish teacher Frida Ambía, she hopes that schools will reopen in the new school year following vaccine eligibility. “The government’s goal is to open schools fully in September, so they may use [the vaccine] as an argument in their favor,” Ambía said in an e-mail interview. “Hopefully, things will look better by the start of the new school year, [though] so many remain uncooperative.”

While the vaccine is a step towards combating COVID-19, many are still staying cautious after receiving the vaccine. “Getting vaccinated still doesn’t guarantee everyone's safety from COVID-19 when there's still a large population who hasn't received it, especially in a city as dense as NYC,” Sreya said. “We need to remain cautious and continue wearing masks until we're certain it's safe. We're not out of the storm just yet.”

Ultimately, those who are eligible for the vaccine are strongly encouraged to obtain it as a communal effort to fight the pandemic. “I would encourage any and all who are eligible to get the vaccine,” Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram said. “Science supports everything we know about the safety of the vaccine even in the face of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being temporarily pulled. As is the case with all vaccines before, we must trust the science and they only work if everyone participates.”