Viruses, vaccines and variants

According+to+a+TKC+survey%2C+as+of+Sept.+16%2C+88.8%25+out+of+286+Kirkwood+students+are+fully+vaccinated.+Art+by+Audrey+Turley.

Ella Davies

According to a TKC survey, as of Sept. 16, 88.8% out of 286 Kirkwood students are fully vaccinated. Art by Audrey Turley.

*Opinion

On March 13, 2020, homes turned into classrooms, schools into empty warehouses and bleachers and stadiums around the world displayed spectator cut-outs for the first time. COVID-19 consumed lives over a year ago, and just when it was assumed to be over, another strain–the Delta variant–took over. Doctors and medical professionals are burnt out as this long-extending pandemic continues to take roots, leaving many with unanswered questions. Do masks really work? Will the vaccine safeguard against COVID-19 and its new strain? Is it safe to take the third booster shot which will soon be available to vaccinated individuals starting Sep. 20? Unanswered questions have been circulating nationwide. So in this pandemic, where does Kirkwood stand?

The pandemic led to a new era of social wars on masks, vaccines and the government. But tensions mostly lie with medical professionals, who have continued to fight both the progression of the pandemic, and the misinformation that follows. Videos and articles against vaccinations have been flooding social media platforms, causing many to hesitate when it comes to getting vaccinated. According to the Missouri COVID-19 vaccine tracker, as of Sept. 16, 39.76% of Saint Louis County residents are fully vaccinated.

“We are not only fighting a virus, but also misinformation,” Umer Siddiqui, a pulmonologist and sleep doctor at Mercy Hospital, who has dealt with a multitude of COVID-19 cases, said. “People in developing nations are dying from lack of access to the vaccine, while people in developed nations are dying because they are paranoid about them. Do you tell a pilot how to fly a plane after searching it on the internet? Then how is it okay to dictate to your physician to prescribe unapproved treatments for COVID-19?”

Do you tell a pilot how to fly a plane after searching it on the internet? Then how is it okay to dictate to your physician to prescribe unapproved treatments for COVID-19?”

— Umer Siddiqui

According to NBC News, government data has revealed that over 15.1 million vaccine doses have been thrown away or wasted in the US since March 1, 2021. Though this number isn’t huge compared to the total number of vaccines administered in the US, Siddiqui believes every wasted vaccine could mean the difference between life and death.

“Vaccines expire over time. If no one is going to use them, they are going to get wasted,” Siddiqui said. “It’s sad that people are flocking to get vaccines in all parts of the world, and unfortunately, we are throwing them out.”

Nevertheless, efforts to convince people to get vaccinated have proven ineffective on a large scale. The virus has continued to multiply and create variants, while economic consequences have added to the morbidity of the current situation.

“More efforts need to be made so the availability and opportunity to get vaccinated is there across the world, especially in third world countries,” Siddiqui said. “There is a lack of equality, a vaccine surplus here, while other countries are being devastated due to lack of it.”

Due to the current situation with the new Delta variant, and because 11.3% of Kirkwood students out of 286 are unvaccinated as of Sept. 16 (according to a TKC survey), masks are mandated this year for all individuals. Ellie Ploszay, junior, is vaccinated, and said she thinks it is important to be wearing masks during this time.

Vaccines expire over time. If no one is going to use them, they are going to get wasted. It’s sad that people are flocking to get vaccines in all parts of the world, and unfortunately, we are throwing them out.”

— Umer Siddiqui

“Masks don’t bother me, but if more people get vaccinated and things start going down, then I don’t think we should wear them.” Ploszay said. “What annoys me is the fact that we all got vaccinated so we didn’t need to wear a mask, and then people decided not to get vaccinated, so now we all still need to wear a mask.”

Now, with the booster shot’s availability, individuals who have gotten the vaccine are beginning to make the decision of whether or not to receive a third dose. According to a TKC survey, as of Sept. 16, 75.2% of Kirkwood students out of 286 plan to take the booster shot when they become eligible. The development of a booster shot has been highly controversial amongst experts such as Siddiqui who believe they would be better served if they were given to people around the world who have not yet received their first and second doses.

Kaitlyn Callaway, senior, is vaccinated and plans on taking the booster shot when it becomes available. She believes people need to take this pandemic seriously and listen to the experts.

“If the CDC says to get the booster shot, I’m going to get the shot,” Callaway said. “People need to listen to the CDC and the experts instead of fighting them and going along with a belief system that doesn’t necessarily go along with facts.” 

People need to listen to the CDC and the experts instead of fighting them and going along with a belief system that doesn’t necessarily go along with facts.”

— Kaitlyn Callaway

Callaway believes that if people had gotten the vaccine when they were told to, the pandemic may have played out differently. She said she wishes people would understand that sticking to the guidelines is beneficial for themselves and for those around them.

“People frustrate me the most during this pandemic, [especially] the ones who aren’t listening to the guidelines,” Callaway said. “COVID-19 could have been long gone by now if people had just listened to the experts from the beginning. If we had stayed in lockdown for as long as it was necessary, then maybe we wouldn’t have even been here today.”