Yesterday, more than 200 EHS students entered a former Pier 1 store in a shopping mall a few miles from campus. Minutes later, they emerged with grins, fist pumps, and a sense that the pandemic’s hardships and challenges were lifting.
On a day declared a Head’s Holiday with no classes, these students received doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at an Alexandria Department of Health clinic. This was an optional vaccination opportunity for eligible and interested students. “We're one step closer to a normal life,” said Catherine MacKinnon ’21 upon getting her shot.
Dozens of faculty and staff ferried the students to the vaccination site using a fleet of 13 EHS vans, with students socially distanced. The EHS adults then chaperoned the students through the clinic and the 15-minute waiting period that followed their shots.
Students receiving their first Pfizer dose will return for a second shot, likely in mid-May. Some students saw the immunization as critical for their year’s end return home to family members who may have health issues that put them at greater risk for the virus. For some international students, proof of the vaccine is essential even just to return to their home country.
“I'll definitely still be cautious,” said Justin Yi ’21, “but it's a nice thing to have, knowing that I can go see my grandparents.”
Other students cheered the notion that vaccination could help put the past year’s challenges behind. “I'm feeling good — ready to see what's next,” said Nikhil Malik ’21.
Dr. Adrianna Bravo, the School’s medical director, and her Health Center team worked for more than a month to secure and arrange this special vaccination opportunity. It came only a little more than a week after Virginia opened vaccinations to the general public. As Dr. Bravo watched their hard work come to fruition and students pile into vans waving their vaccination cards, she says she “got teary eyed. This was a moment 15 months in the making.”
This effort echoes similar vaccination drives orchestrated by the School in years past. In the 1871, during an outbreak of smallpox that killed dozens in the Alexandria area, Principal Launcelot Minor Blackford initiated one of the nation’s first institutional quarantines and secured vaccines for every man, woman, and child on campus. Similarly, in the face of the 1957 H2N2 flu, the School secured the vaccine to inoculate all students, faculty, and staff over 10 days in October. “The school hopes that giving the shots will prevent an epidemic,” the Chronicle reported.
See photos from yesterday on our Maroon and Black Flickr page