• Anna McLean & Sarah Sevener

Our Educators' Vaccine Experiences

As we all know, the COVID-19 vaccine has been officially released to the public aged 16 and up. This has been an incredible breakthrough in science and technology. The faculty and staff of Spring Lake High School have recognized this feat and some have decided to do their part in helping stop the spread of COVID-19. This school year has, to say the least, been wildly different than years past. Teachers and students have had to adjust to the new learning environment. Since we are immensely grateful for all that teachers have done for us this year, we wanted to share the experiences and thoughts that various staff members have had after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine - yet another step the staff of SLHS has taken to protect their students.

The first teacher that we interviewed was Mr. Mazure, a math teacher. He stated that he received the 2- dose Moderna vaccine first on February 17th, and then secondly on March 25th. When asked how he felt after receiving the vaccine, he said that he felt, “Fine for about 10 hours, then I had a pretty high fever (measured at 103) with aches and tiredness that accompanies. The symptoms subsided after about 60 hours. I tried to tough it out teaching the next day but I only made it through 1st Period.” He also stated that after the first 3 days, he was mostly asymptomatic. Mazure was also asked if he felt it was “beneficial to his physical and mental health,” to which he replied, “The vaccines approved by the FDA have been shown to be safe and effective in large-scale trials. The purpose of getting a vaccine is to train my body to quickly recognize the spike protein of the virus, so in the event that I become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, I will avoid severe side effects. I haven’t benefited from it physically, and hopefully, I never have to. Mentally, I feel reassured that even if I become infected, my likelihood of recovering quickly with minimal symptoms is significantly higher. I should also note that being vaccinated is helping society get back to normal. Studies show vaccinated individuals are less likely to transmit the virus, even if they are infected.” Finally, I questioned him on whether or not he would advise others to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He stated that “ I hope that adults and teenagers can understand the science behind vaccines, understand that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, and avoid buying into misinformation. I’m a math teacher, not an immunological scientist. My recommendation echoes the science and the experts in the field. If someone thinks their opinion based on Facebook research carries more weight than someone who has studied this field extensively, then we are clearly operating under a different reality.”

Secondly, we interviewed Mr. Theune, an English teacher and Adviser of SLHS’s publication class. When asked about the physical and mental benefits he had received after being vaccinated, he answered that “I have to say that I was caught a bit off guard by how much it helped my mental health. I’ve been “muscling through” my feelings during much of this time, but when I walked out of the clinic after my first dose an audible “whoop” came out without even thinking. Immediately, it felt like some relief and freedom, not to be around anyone at any time, but to see my parents and some other fully vaccinated friends after our appropriate waiting periods.” Theune received the 2-dose Pfizer vaccine, the first on January 23rd, and the second booster shot on February 13th. He commented that he had little soreness at the injection site and residual grogginess, but other than that, was totally asymptomatic. Lastly, he was asked if he would advise others to get the vaccine, to which he replied, “I lean heavily on the people near and far who have made their livelihoods on studying and understanding viruses. I do not know more than they do. That along with understanding multiple trusted sources are suggesting it, then, yes, I do hope the community gets to herd immunity with the vaccine. I’m anxious to be back with my students in a more conducive way to learning and, from what I can tell, this is our best way to do it.”

Furthermore, we interviewed English teacher, Mrs. McCool. Mrs. McCool seems to have had the longest-lasting symptoms after her second dose, but don’t fear, they resided after 2 days. McCool stated that “After the first one I felt completely fine. The 2nd one wasn’t so great. 12 hours or so afterward. I had a fever, chills, fatigue, and body aches. I was well enough to return to teaching 2 days after but was still not 100% for another couple of days.” However, she stated that she had no other symptoms or illnesses after the initial 2 days. When asked if she thought it was beneficial to her mental and physical health, she replied that “When we arrived at DeVos, my husband and I were amazed to see how many people were there to get vaccinated. When we walked out of the building after our 2nd dose, we immediately had this immense feeling of relief and joy. It almost felt like we had been holding our breath for the last year and we were finally seeing a glimmer of hope. I am still so happy with my decision and for the chance to return to some sort of normal in the near future.” Then, lastly, when questioned about if she would advise others to get the vaccine, she said that “I strongly believe in the science behind vaccines but I also understand the personal nature that surrounds the choice to get vaccinated. My hope is that those that are able to be vaccinated will do it. I want to be able to interact with my students again, see friends and family without worrying about the virus, and enjoy life more fully. I think vaccines can get us there again.”

Another Spring Lake Faculty we interviewed who received the COVID-19 vaccine is Mr. Webster, more commonly known as Profe. As one of the 3 Spanish teachers in Spring Lake, he deals with a high volume of students. When asked about his sense of “responsibility” to get the vaccine he stated, “We’re supposed to care for one another. We’re supposed to look out for each other. Getting vaccinated is not just about protecting ourselves. It's about the ethics of protecting others.” Webster received the Moderna 2-dose vaccine, as well as his wife and mother. After his first dose, he felt “like a champ.” But, commonly to others’ experiences, the second vaccine wasn’t as simple. He described his symptoms as, “I felt like I had the flu. The day after, I slept all day. The next day, I felt like I normally would.” He also added that hydrating before the vaccine helped his wife, but he did not hydrate and had more severe symptoms. Profe recommends getting the vaccination and shares a few words of wisdom, “Based on the recommendations of the world's best epidemiologists, getting vaccinated is something we just need to do so that we might be able to get back to normal. We may be tired and ‘done’ with COVID-19, but COVID-19 isn’t done with us until we all get vaccinated. We need to step up, get tough like the “Greatest Generation” and do whatever we can do to beat this.”

The last faculty member of Spring Lake that received the vaccine that we interviewed is English teacher, Mrs. Susan Strobel. As a firm believer in science, when asked about the benefits to her physical and mental health after receiving the vaccine she stated, “Absolutely. I believe in the science behind vaccinations and the concept of herd immunity achieved by mass vaccination.” Mrs. Strobel received the Pfizer 2-dose vaccine, with her first vaccination on 2/4/21 and her second booster shot on 2/25/21. When asked about her symptoms as to the vaccine she shared, “general achiness at the injection site, ‘stuffiness’ in the nasal head area, slight body aches for about two days” (for the first vaccine), and “also a very mild headache for about 48 hours” after receiving the second dose. When asked if she would advise peers to receive the vaccine she stated, “Yes, I would. I care deeply about our community, state, and national public health!”

While these teachers’ symptoms may have varied, as happens with any vaccine, one thing stayed consistent. All these educators were more than relieved and willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It seems apparent that they have all advised greatly to sign up and get vaccinated to help reduce the spread. But, finally, we would both like to offer an enormous thank you to these dedicated teachers for doing all that it takes to help return to a sense of normalcy, and for having so much consistency in a time where there is such a lack thereof. Thank you, teachers, for all that you do!

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