Our Shot to Stop the Pandemic: A Student's Perspective

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Pharmacists can advocate for teen vaccination by providing informational sessions at local high schools as well as through social media platforms.

As schools begin to reopen, we hoped to see our lives returning to normal, but this is not the case. The new Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is spreading rapidly and affecting many individuals of all ages.1 There have been 43,700 new cases each day over the past week, which is 3 times the number of cases seen daily 2 weeks ago.2 COVID-19 deaths in America are also at an alarming high, with 620,816 Americans dead due to COVID-19 as of July 30, 2021.1 Because of these alarming numbers, I believe COVID-19 vaccines should be mandated to help mitigate the risk of further deaths due to the virus.

As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise, the pandemic is far from over and hospitals are seeing an increase in younger adult patients with COVID-19 as the Delta variant spreads.1 Many of these patients are being admitted to intensive care units and put on ventilators due to their lack of vaccination.1 Based on data reported by the CDC, only 8,156,002 young adults out of approximately 25 million individuals ages 12 to 17 in the United States have been fully vaccinated.3 This equates to only 33% of young adults being fully vaccinated.4

With this small percentage of individuals vaccinated, two-thirds of this population is susceptible to contracting the highly contagious Delta variant.4 This variant is not like the Alpha and Beta variants.1 It is believed to be more contagious and more able to evade the antibodies produced by the immune system after a COVID-19 infection or vaccination.1 Individuals who are vaccinated may contract the Delta variant but experience less severe symptoms than those who are not vaccinated.1

Why should I be vaccinated? Many teenagers are asking this question, and the answer is simple: it will save lives. Both mRNA and adenovirus COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have been developed with well-established scientific methods.5 Based on projected research estimates, by the end of June 2021 there would have been an additional 279,000 deaths and approximately 1.25 million hospitalizations without vaccines.6

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have undergone the required amount of clinical trials to make certain they are safe and effective.5 In fact, these vaccines have been the most intensely monitored vaccine for safety and effectiveness in U.S. history.5 As American citizens we should do our part and take the vaccine to help save lives.

I personally chose to be vaccinated to protect the vulnerable and immunocompromised members of our community. Unfortunately, many individuals my age do not share this perspective and fail to grasp the seriousness of this virus. I am advocating for teen vaccination to help relieve others from the grief I had to endure on April 6, 2021. Sadly, this was the day that I lost my grandfather to COVID-19.

I also understand why teenagers would be hesitant about these vaccines, because most teens believe that they do not need to get vaccinated due to their age and health status. Other factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy in the teen population include peer pressure, misinformation, fear of possible adverse effects, and parental influence. Parental influence plays a pivotal role in teen vaccination rates because parents are required to provide consent for their teen to be vaccinated and can therefore prevent their vaccination.

Despite these obstacles, we can reach herd immunity with your help. When we achieve herd immunity we will curb the mutation and stop the production of variants of SARS-CoV-2.1 Mandating vaccination, advocating for mobile vaccination clinics, and distributing masks and other sanitation items are all ways to help achieve herd immunity.

Health departments should be doing these things in areas with poor social determinants of health. By improving access and education about the vaccines in underserved communities, we can educate patients and improve health literacy, which will help overcome some of the cultural and socio-economic barriers that lead to vaccine disparities.

As one of the most trusted health care professionals, pharmacists can help influence the community to get vaccinated.7 This is why I believe pharmacists in our community can advocate, educate, and vaccinate many high school students before they return to school this fall. Pharmacists can advocate for teen vaccination by providing informational sessions at local high schools as well as through social media platforms. Social media can serve as an important forum for teens to communicate their concerns in a more teen-friendly environment, in order to help address any misinformation. Additionally, pharmacists can provide education to vaccine hesitant parents regarding the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines. Pharmacists are strategically located in the community and easily accessible to provide education, answer questions, and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

In conclusion, vaccination is the safest way to end this pandemic. By mandating the vaccine, we can reduce deaths and hospitalizations and improve health outcomes, which will in turn improve our economy and help us return to our previous way of life. Many other countries have already begun to mandate the vaccine and it is being required for United States government employees, but we must do more.8 With new variants of this virus appearing around the world, we need to educate others on the vaccine and provide access to the vaccine to all.9 With your cooperation and help we will end the pandemic and save lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zachariah Samuel Dookhan is a rising 10th grade student at Calvary Christian Academy. He is currently enrolled in the STEM Endorsement track and is a dual enrollment student at Broward College. He enjoys fishing, swimming, and robotics. He has been awarded the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Regional Competition Home Health Aide 1st Place award in January 2021; the Broward County Science Fair 4th place award in February 2019; and the Broward County Science Fair Air Quality Special Award in March 2018. His goal is to become a successful physician.

Acknowledgments: Robert Speth, MA, PhD, FAAAS, FAHA, and Tricia Gangoo-Dookhan, PharmD, CPh

REFERENCES

1. Statista. 2021. Number of children in the U.S. by age 2019 | Statista. [online] Available at: <http://www.statista.com/statistics/457786/number-of-children-in-the-us-by-age/#:~:text=Number> [Accessed 2 August 2021].

2. Breuninger, K., 2021. Biden says vaccine mandate for all federal employees is under consideration following VA order. [online] CNBC. Available at: <http://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/27/biden-says-vaccine-mandate-for-all-federal-employees-is-under-consideration-following-va-order.html> [Accessed 30 July 2021].

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits.html> [Accessed 2 August 2021].

4. Deidre McPhillips, C., 2021. Covid-19 vaccines saved nearly 280,000 lives in the US, new research estimates. [online] CNN. Available at: <http://www.cnn.com/2021/07/08/health/covid-vaccinations-prevent-deaths-hospitalizations/index.html> [Accessed 28 July 2021].

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. CDC Works 24/7. [online] Available at: <http://www.cdc.gov/> [Accessed 2 August 2021].

6. Mayo Clinic. 2021. Herd immunity and COVID-19 (coronavirus): What you need to know. [online] Available at: <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/herd-immunity-and-coronavirus/art-20486808.> [Accessed 2 August 2021].

7. Blank, C., 2021. Pharmacists Top Most Trusted Professions in Gallup Poll. [online] Drug Topics. Available at: <https://www.drugtopics.com/view/pharmacists-top-most-trusted-professions-gallup-poll> [Accessed 30 July 2021].

8. Diamond, D., 2021. ‘A tipping point’: Government officials, health groups move to require coronavirus vaccines for workers. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: <http://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/26/mandatory-vaccinations-urged-health-workers/> [Accessed 30 July 2021].

9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. COVID Data Tracker. [online] Available at: <https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/> [Accessed 2 August 2021].