Members of the Batten Leadership Program Global Health Fellows gave an informative lesson during Upper School Chapel on January 5, educating classmates about Covid-19 vaccines.
Gavin Goss '22 and Mariana Duarte '22 delivered the chapel on behalf to the Global Health Fellows. The chapel also explored survey data the Fellows gathered earlier in the school year, when they asked students about a wealth of Covid-related topics. The topics included masking, immunity, and vaccines.
Similar to presentations parents were able to hear earlier in the school year, which were made by Drs. Fred Fink '73, Paige Frazer '89, and Dana Ramirez, pediatricians for Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, the Fellows explained the history of the Covid-19 vaccines and how they work.
The vaccine inserts an mRNA protein into the body, the Fellows said. This protein instructs the cell to create spike proteins on the outside, similar to the ones that Covid has. These proteins are absorbed into the body, and eventually into a cell. After a while, the body begins to notice these spike proteins, and eventually white blood cells destroy the cell. This teaches the body that anything with these spike proteins is bad, so it makes the antibodies necessary to destroy it. Antibodies remain in the body, providing protection.
There is no chance of getting a disease from these vaccines, the Fellows said. Another advantage of mRNA vaccines is the ability to develop them quickly, as happened with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Many people weren’t aware of mRNA technology before the Covid vaccine because the technology had never been used in a mainstream vaccine, the Fellows said. However, this technology has been developing for decades. There have been years of research on mRNA vaccines for influenza and HIV.
Among the survey results, the Fellows found that all faculty members at Norfolk Academy are vaccinated. About three-quarters of Upper School students are vaccinated and about two-thirds of Middle School students. Roughly 62% of people in the United States are vaccinated, the group said.
The Fellows closed by urging students not to politicize this issue. The choice regarding whether or not to take the vaccine is a personal one but should be made based on facts, statistics, and science, they said.
Associate Director of College Counseling Brad Harlan and Upper School Assistant Director Sarah Goodson are faculty advisors for the Global Health Fellows.