By the time I turn in my third and final SAMO, we will have been in a global pandemic for one year. It’s insane how a two-week break turned into months of quarantine, isolation, pain, and death. On March 16, 2021, there have been 535,227 Covid-related deaths in the United States and 23,216 Covid-related deaths in Illinois. But things are starting to look up as the world is beginning to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. There are three vaccines being distributed: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen. Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines while Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector.

A screenshot of CNN’s Covid tracker (this photo is from March 16, 2021 at 8:03 am EST)

A part of my SAMO experience was listening to a podcast named “The Antigen”. This podcast is made by Pfizer, yes you read that correctly. Pfizer as in one of the companies distributing the vaccine. This podcast can be found on many platforms. I personally listened to it on Spotify. The hosts, Yasmeen Agosti for season one and Lindsey Dietschi for season two, speak with scientists, advocates, and doctors about the ongoing search for a solution to the Coronavirus.

I listened to three episodes, the first being “The Quest for a Vaccine”. Lindsey speaks with Phil Dormitzer, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Viral Vaccines at Pfizer. He speaks on the greatness of RNA. RNA works in smaller quantities and can create proteins that elicit an immune response. He also talks about who the right people are to get this vaccine. Lindsey reiterates, “Starting with a population of healthy young adults, understanding the immune response that the vaccine might elicit, and then how that immune response might actually correlate to some level of protection against the virus” (16:52). 

The next episode I listened to was “Vaccine Hesitancy: Part 1”. Yasmeen speaks with many advocates. As shown in the title, this episode focuses on vaccine resistance. Vaccine hesitancy isn’t new to us, it’s been around since the Smallpox vaccine. This hesitancy stems from an unknown virus being injected into a healthy person. It also is a result of people wanting reliable answers to questions regarding vaccination. These questions included ethics, side effects, and other topics that are new. 

Me listening to “The Antigen” in my car!!
Me listening to “The Antigen” while reading the episode’s transcript

The last episode I listened to was “Vaccine Politics, Policy, and Advocacy”. Yasmeen sparks a conversation with Professor of Drexel University Robert Field, Congresswoman Dr. Kim Schrier, LJ Tan of the Immunization Action Coalition, and parent-advocate Patti Wukovits. At the beginning of the episode, Professor Field talks about a controversial topic: whether or not to make vaccines mandatory. He goes on to say that it’s up to the state’s legislation to determine the extent of vaccination, but all states are required to have children immunized before entering child care or school. Many states tightened their rules, making medical exemptions the only reason to get exempt from a vaccine. Vaccines are necessary for the protection of the unprotected and overall are better for society as we are doing our best to put the health of others above ourselves.

I took it upon myself to look at Illinois state laws. Listed here are the minimum immunization requirements in Illinois from 2020. It is stated by the Illinois Department of Public Health that, “Illinois state law requires certain immunizations for children and adults enrolled in child care, school, or college. State law also mandates immunizations for adults in specific fields of work (healthcare)” (IDHP). 

As for the Covid-19 vaccine, the state of Illinois and the U.S aren’t requiring students to get vaccinated. As we established in class, there are groupings for people who are eligible of getting the vaccine. Splitting up the population of Illinois illustrates who are in true need of the vaccine, for example, healthcare workers. It’s in the eyes of the United States to distribute a safe and effective vaccine to reduce Covid-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. 

Who’s allowed to get a vaccine has been up in the air ever since its distribution. I remember in class we talked about who was in each group, specifically inmates in phase 1b. This phase comes second after essential workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. This may be questionable because our society has a negative outlook on prisoners. Undocumented immigrants were another hot topic. According to the IDHP, undocumented people will not be turned away when getting their Covid vaccine. It is also stated by the State of Illinois Coronavirus Response that, “The Pritzker Administration has released guidance to affirm and supplement the State of Illinois’ April 10, 2020 Guidance Relating to Non-Discrimination in Medical Treatment for COVID-19. Federal and State civil rights laws, including the Illinois Human Rights Act, prohibit discrimination in the delivery of healthcare and support of the rendering of ethical, non-discriminatory decisions” (State of Illinois Coronavirus Response). 

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Phases | Loyola Medicine
Illinois’s Covid vaccines phases by Loyola Medicine

This can relate to our Circle of Obligation. The people we hold closest are the same people we want to protect from this virus. The idea of losing someone who we hold dearest is unbearable, so we do everything in our power to keep them out of harm’s way. But expanding from this circle, we need to think about the stranger we sit next to or everyone outside of the circle because they also have families and friends they need.

I’d like to relate my current SAMO experience with Grace’s second SAMO experience. Grace focused on the inequalities within our healthcare system. Since this issue stems from multiple errors in our world, I’d like to focus it on the inequalities when it comes to the Coronavirus. Grace writes, “50% of the Covid cases in Chicago involve African Americans and 70% of Covid deaths are Black people” (Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis).

It’s prevalent that people view African Americans to be the blame for their health, but it’s still no excuse for their higher death rates. Due to the communities they live in, the jobs they work at, and the lives they come home to, it is easier to spread diseases like Covid.  There is a huge disconnect with our healthcare system when it comes to helping the African American community. Grace brings up that there were rules in place to treat Black patients differently than White patients and that Black people have a higher pain tolerance resulting in less pain medication. The basic prejudice and bias give reason to healthcare professionals to not give the same attention to African Americans, and it’s not okay. 

Wenners Ballard III, MD, taking part in the White Coats for Black Lives

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25, it states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services” (Article 25). We forget to look at these people as humans. We instead see their actions, their status in our country, the color of their skin. But it comes down to one simple objective: no one should be denied access to necessary medical attention. 

Moving forward, I watched an episode of Netflix’s temporary docuseries “Coronavirus, Explained”. I watched episode 2, amounting to 23 minutes, titled, “The Race for a Vaccine”. It’s explained that it took 65 days for scientists to make a SARS-Cov 2 vaccine, the first being used on Jennifer Haller on March 16, 2020. This astonishing record added with the fact that it usually takes a decade for a candidate to make it start to finish, emphasizes the timeliness of this virus. As a result of this, Dr. Richard Hatchett says, “‘The entire global scientific community has come together in a truly unprecedented way” (2:46). 

Me watching “Coronavirus, Explained” in my pjs 🙂

The Coronavirus has left millions feeling useless, but this race for a vaccine has given people control again. A vaccine, even though it’s not 100% effective, is the only solution to prevent people from getting sick and spreading it to the people around us. In a 16 minute NPR listen named, “Coronavirus Vaccine Q&A: Variants, Side Effects, and More”, Madeline K. Sofia relays that we don’t have enough data to know for sure that the vaccine cuts down on transmission or by how much (2:35). Also, it is hard to predict variants of Covid, but we can find peace in the fact that even if new variants are on the horizon, we are protected.

In the Netflix docuseries episode, the main goal is established as herd immunity: the majority of the people are immunized. For Covid-19, 60% of the world’s population, or in other words 4.7 billion people, need to be vaccinated. The problem is that we’ve never produced billions of a vaccine before. This 18-month journey for a vaccine is difficult but is something many people are ready to tackle. Madeline K. Sofia from the NPR listen says that reaching herd immunity may not be a reality for this virus. But that doesn’t mean we should be discouraged because we can learn to live with virus and create a new normal.

Me listening to the NPR listen

Getting this vaccine requires help from everyone in the world. In Europe, Asia, and North America, we are making strides in the right direction. Although they’re moving at a slower pace, Japan has given out 18,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine (CNN). Their struggle to distributing vaccines came from another wave of new cases and with the Summer Olympics on their way, Japan is racing to reduce infections. Additionally, Russia is speeding its way with the vaccine by showing off its new factories. It’s to be said that, “The vaccine [in Russia] has become one of the world’s most preordered” (CNN). 

This virus has turned the world upside down. It has been 365 days since normalcy, normalcy including no masks, social distancing, and multiple tests. Even though this fight against this ravaging virus has taken everything from everyone, we are making strides towards the future. Covid-19 vaccines are finally being distributed among the world. We need to keep the faith in this tedious battle against Covid. This is our moment to take back what the Coronavirus took from us.

Trailer for Netflix’s show “Coronavirus, Explained”

Published by Ellie Lim

Hi! I'm Ellie, and I'm a Senior at Glenbrook North High School. Some of my interests include synchronized figure skating, spending time with my friends and family, and being with my dog. For synchro, I compete on behalf of Team USA!

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