Getting Vaccinated, and What Comes Next



With the vaccine becoming widely available, life is poised to change quickly once again. 

On March 11, the state of Massachusetts made all K-12 educators eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination, igniting yet another rush as tens of thousands of newly eligible residents attempted to access a much smaller vaccine supply. However, in the days and weeks since, several L-S educators have been able to receive a vaccine, finally beginning what is sure to be a long, difficult process of emerging from the pandemic.  

The difficulty of signing up varied. For a teacher who preferred to remain anonymous, “It was very easy to sign up. I went to during my morning prep block on March 11 . . . I took the first site offered in Boston. I was signed up and confirmed by 9:30.” 

For others, such as science teacher Mary Brunson, it was a bit more complicated. A few hours after getting an appointment at a CVS only ten minutes away, she was emailed saying the appointment had been cancelled. “I was so disappointed and frustrated. I tried for multiple days to get a new appointment, with little luck.” Finally, she decided to show up at the original appointment location just in case they had extra, and was told she would be called by the end of the day if there were any cancellations. When, surprisingly, Brunson got a call back saying there had been a cancellation, “I raced over and got my J&J shot! It was such a relief and so exciting for me.”

The actual experience of being vaccinated was relatively uneventful for most teachers. The process “seemed well enough organized and the people administering the shots seemed competent,” according to language teacher Kurt James. For science teacher Jeffrey Mazza, the shot came with the realization that “this will most likely be the first of several” COVID-19 vaccines he would receive, “as boosters become available for variants that continue to emerge now and in the future.”

Just because someone received the vaccine early does not mean there was no hesitancy. Language teacher Desiree Butter candidly admitted that “I don’t like the idea of being injected with something ‘that new’.” However, she “felt if doctors and nurses and other first responders were doing it, the choice was clear.” 

The side-effects of the vaccine varied. Mazza, who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, experienced “muscle/joint aches, a headache, a low grade fever,” as well as fatigue. Ever the science teacher, Mazza said “I was actually happy when this happened since I knew the inflammatory process was kicking in, which is an important early step in the overall immune response.” Brunson, who also received the J&J vaccine but did not experience side-effects beyond a sore shoulder, noted that “in the vaccine trials a lot of people had no side effects and they were just as protected from the virus as those who did.”

James and the anonymous teacher, who have both received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, have not yet experienced side-effects. There are minor differences between the makeup of the different vaccines, but the anonymous teacher said that she did not know, and “did not care” which she would receive until it was injected. She was “just very grateful to be getting vaccinated.”

Although each teacher was relieved to get the vaccine, their behavioral changes following it are tempered by the fact that only a small minority of people have been vaccinated. “I’m not really changing any of my behavior, as I still wear a mask everywhere I go and don’t see a lot of people,” said English teacher Mike Guanci in a sentiment that was widely shared. However, since his parents and sister have been vaccinated, “it has felt normal seeing them and spending time with them while not needing to wear a mask,” which is based on the CDC’s guidance.  Mazza, who has felt a “peace of mind” knowing that he is protected from the most severe symptoms, also remains cautious. “I am aware that I can still get infected and could pass it along to someone else that is unvaccinated who could get more severe symptoms,” Mazza said. However, he has been able to see his vaccinated parents, who live in New York, more often. “We haven’t been inside their house since Christmas of 2019,” Mazza said. 

For some teachers, like Brunson, the proportion of the population that gets vaccinated is of even more vital importance. “My mother is in one of the groups of individuals that can never get the vaccine, so unless she is completely surrounded by vaccinated people, she will still be in danger,” Brunson said. That changes how she views vaccine skepticism. “It bothers me when there is misinformation spreading about vaccines. As often as I can, I try to educate people about vaccines and how they work.” She emphasizes that “getting a vaccine protects you, but it also protects all those around you.” In her AP Biology class, she “held a full period Q&A about the COVID vaccine to make sure students were hearing the truth so they could then educate their family and friends.” 

The urgency and optimism that has caused many in the country to fully or almost fully resume their pre-pandemic activities hasn’t quite reached Brunson yet. “Until the percentage of vaccinated people is 75% or more, I will not feel at ease about [my mother] going grocery shopping, going out to eat, or other things that might put her at risk.” That day when at least three-quarters of people are vaccinated may be further away than some realize. “It will be some time before my small children can get their vaccines, so when they go to school every day, it’s always a risk that they could bring something back into our home,” Brunson said. 

Brunson’s experience shows that a complete end to the pandemic is still a ways away. But as more and more people get vaccinated, that end gets much closer. Eligibility status for the vaccine was expanded on March 22nd to people aged 60+ as well as essential workers, making hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents, and dozens of L-S students, eligible. Sam Arkoff, an L-S junior who works at Wayland Stop & Shop, isn’t waiting. He plans to get the vaccine “as soon as possible” for several reasons. He is well aware that “the sooner everyone is vaccinated the sooner we can get back to normal.” He also looks forward to hanging out with his friends without worrying “about catching Covid, and, more importantly, spreading Covid.” The fact that he is unlikely to get sick from COVID-19 does not affect his sense of urgency, since his job means he can spread the virus quickly. “I touch hundreds of families’ food each week,” Arkoff said. “As I often work curbside pickup, I deal with a lot of people who are at high risk, and the sooner I get the vaccine, the better I can feel about my work.”

For people looking to sign up, there is a dizzying array of options. While the state has an official website to browse the vaccine availability of all its locations, a number of sites and accounts have also sprung up to help people book their vaccine slots as quickly as possible. There is, which sends you an email whenever there are available appointments. sends users a notification when there are unused vaccines that need to be used., which is run by volunteers, actually goes through the booking process for you, and prioritizes high-risk groups of people as well as those who have a difficult time with the standard booking procedures (such as non-english speakers). For those who probe deeper into the internet, there are a number of less-advertised bots, Twitter accounts, and subreddits, all geared towards helping people get a dose as quickly as possible.  

Arkoff recently booked his vaccination appointment, a sign that the long process of vaccinating as many L-S students and staff as possible is picking up steam. For Butter, her vaccination has caused her to reflect on the past year of the pandemic. “I prefer not to let my guard down quite yet.  I don’t know that I ever will.  I learned so much about myself throughout this year, [gaining] a greater appreciation for those close to me and such a clear understanding of how fast life can change.” That understanding will be necessary – with the vaccine becoming widely available, life is poised to change quickly once again.