Community Members Receive COVID-19 Vaccines Early


Edan Zinn

More and more Middle and Upper School students are getting the vaccine every day. Photo illustration by Edan Zinn ’23.

Edan Zinn, Outgoing Editor-in-Chief

COVID-19 vaccinations may be on the early horizons for the community.

With a roll-out underway for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, many healthcare professionals have already received doses of the vaccine—including several parents of students at the School.

Among those made eligible for the vaccine so far is Dr. Meenakashi Kumar, MD P’22, a physician who sees patients at a COVID-19 clinic. Kumar, who received her first dose over the winter break, said that it took a while for her to feel comfortable with the vaccination process.

“The vaccine has been created in a remarkably short period of time, bringing with it uncertainty and many unanswered questions regarding long term immunity and adverse effects that may be many years down the line,” Kumar said.

Kumar shared that while she acknowledges the vaccine has doubts for many, she believes the Food and Drug Administration wouldn’t release something outwardly harmful.

The vaccine gives me hope that eventually life will return to normal—a new normal, but anything’s better than what’s going on now.

— School Nurse and Director of Health Services Beth Escobar

“I understand that we will not achieve herd immunity if we don’t get vaccinated and participate in this process as a community. I also had the opportunity to be a guinea pig for my patients, which rarely happens,” Kumar said.

Kumar reported feeling feverish and achy for three days, though she said all symptoms have been resolved on their own and she “feels fabulous.”

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Hari Mallidi, MD P’23 also received both doses of the vaccine.

“I take care of many patients with COVID-19 and, as a result, I was among the first wave of people to get vaccinated at the hospital,” Mallidi said.

Both Kumar and Mallidi mentioned the expedited process of developing the vaccine.

“The vaccine is a miracle of science and its development has been the fastest in history,” Mallidi said. “New medical technologies, that have only come into the existence within the past decade, were used to develop and manufacture the vaccine.”

Despite her initial uncertainties with receiving the vaccine, Kumar remains confident in efforts to immunize the population.

“I also am a member of the medical community and have faith in our systems, as dysfunctional as they may seem to many of us,” Kumar said.

For her part, School Nurse and Director of Health Services Beth Escobar is hopeful for what the vaccines could bring. She said that she is yet to be vaccinated along with many other school nurses, but she may receive a dose as early as this week.

“I’ve spent a great deal of time reaching out to our medical community and our public health officials to see how school nurses can receive the vaccine. Priority will be given to school nurses doing COVID testing at their schools, but I’m confident most school nurses will ultimately get the vaccine as soon as possible,” Escobar said.

Escobar hopes to be vaccinated as soon as possible, as she administers testing for over 500 people at the School. She said that her next “mission” is to host a COVID-19 vaccination event for faculty and staff at the School.

“I hold an influenza vaccine clinic for faculty and staff every fall, so why not try to do this, too? Wish me luck,” Escobar said. “Don’t forget to continue to wear masks, regularly wash hands, and practice physical distancing. These mitigation strategies do work!”

Middle School Head and COVID Response Team member Carl Rapisarda-Vallely said that while the School has begun discussions about the vaccine at weekly meetings, no decisions have been made beyond that point.

“We are hopeful that teachers in the state of Massachusetts will be able to get vaccinated within the next month or so,” Vallely said.

Though it may be months before students and other community members receive vaccines, early strides toward the goal of herd immunity have brought light to the end of a dark tunnel for many.

“[The vaccine] remains our best hope for getting all of us out of the pandemic, and I am an enthusiastic supporter of its widespread adoption,” Mallidi said.

Escobar reflected on the effects the pandemic has had on the lives of many.

“The vaccine gives me hope that eventually life will return to normal—a new normal, but anything’s better than what’s going on now,” Escobar said.

Kumar, like Escobar, looks forward to the new normal that the vaccine may bring.

“It brings a confidence to be out in the world—though I am not, yet—that I envision for our world would be very therapeutic after an isolated and secluded 2020,” Kumar said.