HW Middle School Students Now Eligible for the Pfizer Vaccine

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old on May 10, opening up the United States vaccination campaign to millions of more people and prompting Harvard-Westlake (HW) to hold a vaccine clinic.

Pfizer reported weeks ago that none of the adolescents in the clinical trial who received the vaccine developed symptomatic infections, which is a sign of serious protection. Volunteers who took part in the trials produced strong antibody responses and experienced similar side effects seen in other vaccine recipients ages 16 to 25.

This approval means students across the nation can be vaccinated before the 2021-2022 school year begins – meaning schools will be able to continue the reopening process and go further now that students will be vaccinated. The vaccine had previously been available for people 16 and up, meaning many HW Upper School students have been able to get the vaccine – however, middle schoolers haven’t been.

The majority of students at HW’s middle school campus are within the ages of 12 and 15, so they haven’t been able to get the vaccine, but this approval by the FDA means almost every HW student who wants the vaccine can get it.

In a survey sent to the middle school student body, an overwhelming majority of students, 85% of the more than 200 student respondents, said they plan to get the vaccine when it is approved.

Middle School students from seventh to ninth grade responded enthusiastically to the thought of being able to get the vaccine.

Emma Tran-Lee ‘26 said she plans to get the vaccine so the pandemic can end sooner.

“If more people get vaccinated then we are closer to getting rid of coronavirus,” she said. “I will be able to get vaccinated once it opens so I want to help stop this pandemic.”

Dru Reed ‘24 said he plans to get the vaccine to get more protection against the vaccine.

“If I had a chance to get a vaccine I am going to take it,” Reed said. “I want any protection I can get.”

These numbers indicate that the majority of the HW student body and faculty may soon be vaccinated. Aside from contributing to the overall progress of ending the pandemic, the many students and faculty getting the vaccine could have large implications for HW, with barriers that currently prevent the school from opening up more being knocked down.

HW’s Head of Communications & Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ‘89 has been at the forefront of the strategizing behind Harvard-Westlake’s reopening, and said that vaccinations are essential to HW returning to school as it was prior to the pandemic.

“The more people who get vaccinated, the closer we get to herd immunity as a society and achieving herd immunity will make all of us feel safer,” Engelberg said. “Of course, beyond what’s happening in our city and state as a whole, it’s pretty clear that the more people who get vaccinated at HW, the less likely that we’ll face an outbreak of the virus on our campuses. So, vaccines are an important part of the strategy to end this pandemic and get closer to a return to school as we knew it before March of 2020.”

HW took quick action on the news of the approval, and announced in a May 11 email that a vaccine clinic would be hosted at the Middle School for all students, incoming students, siblings of students, and parents and guardians above the age of 12.

“Harvard-Westlake is pleased to partner with Elements Pharmacy to operate a vaccine clinic next week for individuals who are 12 years old or older,” the HW Community Health Office wrote.

With COVID-19 numbers looking better and better, and the vaccine being approved for more and more ages, it appears HW, and the world, may soon return to some sort of normalcy.