It’s Worth A Shot: A Teacher Reflects on Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccines

When I began my teaching career, I had to follow several routine requirements to proceed:  fingerprinting, background checks, and vaccinations.  These are the basic required vaccinations:  
MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella);
Seasonal influenza;
Human papillomaviruses (HPV) (eleven through twenty-six years of age);
Others as determined by the ACIP and state and local public health authorities.
Recommended if a specific risk factor is present:
Hepatitis A;
Hepatitis B;

I had no hesitancy in making sure I met the requirements.  Today, the question is should districts or State education agencies add the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required shots?   I believe it would be imperative for all employees working with students to be vaccinated.  This is a highly contagious virus, so why would you not want to take this precaution?  Besides, states have the legal right to enforce these requirements after the 1905 Supreme Court ruling, Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts that states that individual liberty is not absolute.  With the potentiality of new strains coming down the pike, receiving this vaccine could provide your body a fighting chance.  
Ever since the beginning of this pandemic life, teachers have voiced their concerns over their safety returning to the classroom because of this virus.  The vaccine is one safeguard to help protect them.  In my mind, it is a no-brainer.  Yet, I know there is a bit of pause regarding the vaccine.  The number one concern I hear from associates (and news articles) is a fear that the vaccine will alter their DNA. 
This is a myth. 
According to an article in The Denver Post, this is what actually happens:  
“The new vaccines work with this amazing natural process. The vaccine contains a messenger RNA with instructions for a COVID surface spike protein. It’s like a borrowed recipe. The vaccine RNA works at the kitchen counter, the ribosome, to assemble a spike protein. The vaccine never interacts with a person’s DNA. After a few hours, the vaccine RNA, like the body’s regular RNA messengers, disintegrates. The spike proteins are released from the cell. The body’s immune system recognizes they don’t belong in the body and destroys them. The immune system is now prepared to recognize and respond when it encounters the real COVID-19 virus.”  The Denver Post –   
People are also caught up in other myths, so much that trusted organizations (AAFP – American Association of Family Physicians)  are addressing these issues as well in articles like,  Myths of Taking the Vaccine.    The most popular myth is that you receive a microchip into your system.  If this were truly the case, would our former president and current president, as well as other government leaders receive the vaccine?  Yesterday’s headline features several Broadway celebrities, such as Lin Manuel Miranda, receiving his vaccine on Times Square where he helped promote the site of a new vaccination station.  If this myth had one ounce of credibility, would any of the above-mentioned take the risk?  Of course not! The more rational of our population needs to become more vocal to silence the conspiracy lovers propagating these myths.  
Granted, there are exceptions for individuals regarding vaccinations, namely religious reasons.  My thought is schools should require teachers and staff to become vaccinated, and if a staff member refuses due to religious beliefs, then it needs to be proven.  In other words, if their paperwork already has this exemption documented, then perhaps they should be given a pass.  If they are suddenly claiming religious reason, yet received the other required immunizations, then this should be brought into question.  It is not a violation of privacy since childcare workers, teachers, and other school staff submit to background checks and fingerprints.  
Every year, my school provided the opportunity to receive our yearly flu shot and offered to watch out classes while we did so.  I admit, I typically skip the offer because my immune system just cannot handle the shot.  However, I have rarely had a bout of the flu after 16 years of teaching in a petri dish of germs.  If I contract the flu, it was short-lived, and I recovered within a day or two.    This year, however, I may go ahead and bite the bullet and get a flu shot anyway.  I know I will need to get the shot over the weekend since I have a strong reaction to the shot.  I want to do whatever I can to ensure my safety, the safety of my loved ones, and the safety of my coworkers and students.   It would be more convenient if the healthcare industry offered both the COVID-19 vaccine booster and flu shot at the same time. 
By nature, most teachers are givers who give their all to their students.  Teaching remote or hybrid has taken its toll on many of us as we long to be back face to face with our students.  A few already have been face to face from the very beginning.  I believe the COVID-19 vaccine will simply allow us to be exactly where our heart desires, so to me, it’s worth the shot.   

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