Everyone at Parker Who Is Age-Eligible Should Be Required To Get The Shot


It has been over 10 months since the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization on December 11, 2020. On December 15, 2020 the first COVID-19 Vaccine was administered to a healthcare worker at Loretto Hospital in Chicago. Since then, over 187 million people have been fully vaccinated using the three vaccines currently available in the US: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data. The majority of Parker’s teachers received their first vaccination in late January, 2021 using the Moderna vaccine. All three COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested. The Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccination approved for Americans under the age of 18 has been administered over 233 million times in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the FDA for use in Americans over the age of 16. According to an email sent by Principal Dan Frank on August 9, “we are encouraged that well over 90% of students and employees who are vaccine-eligible have received a vaccine to date.” That unvaccinated 10% truly baffles and agitates me. As someone who has been incredibly involved in COVID-19 vaccines since January, I can’t even begin to understand why someone wouldn’t want to be protected by this safe and incredibly effective vaccine. 

I think back to May 11, 2021, the day before I could get vaccinated and it was agonizing. I was so frustrated that I had booked so many vaccine appointments for senior citizens, healthcare workers, essential workers, and others, yet I couldn’t actually get that protection for myself. I felt like everyone around me was lessening their risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus, though I couldn’t. The next day, May 12, I remember checking my phone and seeing that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) had given their approval to begin putting the Pfizer shot in the arms of Americans 12-15. I was relieved and felt that soon enough I could begin getting my life back. Later that night, I was given my Pfizer shot at a mass vaccination site, and it was the only time in my entire life that I can remember being happy about getting a shot.

Getting vaccinated is especially important now to keep all members of our community safe. The delta variant of the coronavirus is roaring across the country. In some states, this fourth wave is the worst phase of the virus that they’ve seen throughout the entire pandemic. This situation which is impossibly taxing on this nation’s healthcare workers, who are already exhausted from working for over a year in a global pandemic, is all the more infuriating since it was avoidable. In the US, we have thrown away more than 15 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to NBC News.  In my opinion, a large number of Americans are remaining unvaccinated due in part to politically based conspiracy theories. While this colossal wastage is occurring here, in many other countries access to the vaccine has yet to be given to healthcare workers. We should all be lucky to live in a country that grants us this extraordinary access to a treatment that actually prevents COVID-19.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are two of the most effective vaccines ever created. They both had efficacy rates over 90%, according to Yale Medicine. Have you ever wondered, “how effective are flu vaccines?” Well, the answer is that they are much less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines. According to Mayo Clinic, “​​the flu vaccine is about 50% to 60% effective for healthy adults who are between 18 and 64 years old. The vaccine may sometimes be less effective.”

Previous precedent for vaccine mandates in high schools has already been established. One of the largest school districts in the nation, Los Angeles Unified School District announced on September 9th that it would require the COVID-19 vaccination for all students above the age of 12. In Los Angeles, students that turn 12 during the school year must get their first dose no later than 30 days after their birthday, according to POLITICO. Another large school district that has mandated the COVID-19 vaccine is the San Diego Unified School District. In San Diego, the vaccine is mandated for all staff, and any students above the age of 16, as this is the age group for which the Pfizer vaccine is currently fully approved by the FDA. According to NBC San Diego, once the vaccine becomes fully FDA approved for the 12-15 age group, then it will be mandated for students of that age. The same process will be followed for students in the 5-11 age group. 

In addition to the aforementioned large public school districts that have mandated the inoculation against the coronavirus, many private schools have also mandated the vaccine. One private school in New York City that mandated the vaccine is the Calhoun School. Calhoun, like Parker, is an independent K-12 progressive school. Kat​​e Wattenberg, a junior at Calhoun told “The Weekly,” “A vaccine mandate slows the spread of COVID and reduces the number of quarantines necessary when people test positive. Having a vaccine mandate also makes it safer to interact in large groups without feeling unsafe. I’m glad that all students at my school are protected against COVID and this enables us to have as normal a school year as possible.” One private school in Chicago that is requiring the vaccine is Wolcott College Prep. Audrey Johnson, a freshman at Wolcott told “The Weekly,” “I’m thrilled that Wolcott decided to institute a vaccine mandate. It makes me feel much safer knowing that everyone in school with me is vaccinated.” 

One of my largest concerns about not having a vaccine mandate at Parker is that there is absolutely no accountability for the COVID rules. Even though all unvaccinated students are supposed to wear masks when outside on school property, there is no one making sure these unvaccinated students follow this policy and I doubt that many comply. I understand that the school may want to be tight-lipped on vaccination status for the sake of privacy, however I would much rather know who is unvaccinated, so that I can make sure to wear a mask around them and social distance. 

Another frustration of mine with the school’s current decision not to mandate the vaccine is the pretext for which they made this determination. School Nurse Anne Nelson told “The Weekly” earlier this school year that the Parker legal team had advised against requiring students to get vaccinated. Not only are there many other schools nationwide that have taken this step, Parker also already requires many routine immunizations to attend school.

According to, “We [Parker] pursue educational excellence by cultivating creative problem-solving through vigorous effort so all can experience joy in learning.”  Unfortunately, I and many other students cannot fully experience joy in learning while knowing that there is still a threat of catching a deadly disease from a student who is too inconsiderate to get a vaccination that is scientifically proven to be safe and highly effective. The transmission of COVID-19 could be stopped (or significantly minimized) if everyone in the United States was vaccinated against it. Although everyone in this country will not get vaccinated against this disease, it is crucial that Parker enacts a vaccine mandate for all age-eligible students and all faculty to keep the entire community safe. 

Our administration regularly portrays the school as an innovative place and a school that leads the way in terms of policies. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve been behind, from getting students back in school during the 2020-21 school year to hosting outdoor social events, we haven’t been the first to do anything. In a Zoom interview with “The Weekly” on October 19, 2020, Dean of Upper School Student Life Joe Bruno was asked what his plan was to get upper school students back to 330 West Webster. Bruno responded with, “I would think a vaccine would probably be it.” 

So many of us have waited for this vaccine for such a long time, and now it has arrived and saved millions of lives. If there is ever a time that our administration desperately needs to be on the forefront, a leader, it is now. Parker must immediately mandate the Coronavirus vaccine to keep everyone safe in our “Model Home.”