Opinion: COVID-19 vaccine brings us hope

Miriam Godel, Reporter

Like everyone else in the country, when I heard the news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization, I breathed a sigh of relief that life could begin to go back to normal. And life at CESJDS will get back to normal even more quickly, thanks to the administration’s decision to make the vaccine mandatory for faculty and staff.

The vaccine is our path to getting out of this pandemic, and it will only work if enough people get vaccinated and we reach a level of herd immunity. Herd immunity is when most or all of a community is immune to a virus and the virus is not as present in the community. There are a couple of COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by the FDA to be safe and effective.

Vaccines for other diseases are required for students at JDS unless the student has a pre-existing medical condition certified by a doctor that prevents the student from receiving the vaccine. This year, JDS required the flu shot for the first time after getting recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“If we had a child who had any flu-like illness in our building, there is no way for me to know the difference between COVID and the flu,” Upper School nurse Heather Greenblum said. “We needed to try to decrease the number of flu-like symptoms that are in our community and in our school, simply so we can decrease the chance we are having to quarantine and panic and send people to get COVID tests.”

According to Greenblum, just like all other required vaccines, if JDS decides to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students, there will only be exemptions for anyone who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons.

On Jan. 10, JDS decided that when phase 1B of the vaccine begins, all faculty and staff will be required to get the vaccine unless they have a medical reason or they have a sincerely-held religious belief. According to the New York Times, the federal government issued new guidelines advising that employers can require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine or otherwise not allow them in the workplace.

President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten told The Guardian that the Federation, “supports schools requiring teachers to get vaccinated. Just like we have vaccines we require kids to take to be in school in normal times.”

Our school’s values of kehillah (community), v’ahavta l’reacha (love your neighbor) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) encourage the action of getting vaccinated for both our school community but also the greater community that we live in. These values should lead the school to require the vaccine for all of us to do our part to keep everyone safe.

This feels like the first glimmer of hope of how we can escape this COVID-19 nightmare and begin to get back to life and school as normal. It is imperative that the school require everyone to get the vaccine so we can fully continue our education after this much too long interruption.