Op-ed Winners

Gradually Returning to Normalcy

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, people have often hoped that the creation of a vaccine will immediately precipitate a return to normal life. However, this prospect of a quick return to normalcy is impractical and unrealistic, as the process of manufacturing and distributing vaccines will likely be conducted slowly and in phases. In accordance with this slow distribution of vaccinations, Belmont Hill will similarly only be able to return to its normal structure gradually. Only when enough of the Belmont Hill community is immune to COVID-19 that the remaining portion of the community is safe can Belmont Hill safely relax restrictions and return to normal. 

American vaccine-manufacturers and immunologists alike have reiterated to the American public that after the creation of a safe vaccine, its initial manufacturing will likely be slow and only be available to select portions of the population. The individuals who would likely first receive the vaccine include people with preexisting conditions and those who live in communities and states that have been the most hardly hit by the pandemic. While these demographics represent a considerable portion of the American population, they only constitute a small part of the Belmont Hill community, as the majority of the community is relatively young, healthy, and living in areas which have effectively controlled the pandemic relative to other sections of the country. Furthermore, while some individuals from Belmont Hill will receive early access to the vaccine, the large majority will be delayed in receiving it, and thus will still be prone to contracting the virus long after the vaccine’s initial distribution. Only when the vaccine becomes more widely available and the majority of the community has the ability to receive it can Belmont Hill consider a return to normal.

Nevertheless, even when the majority of the Belmont Hill population has access to a vaccine, Belmont Hill will still have to wait until the people without immunity have a low enough risk of contracting the virus in order to return to normal. In order for this situation to occur, a certain percentage of the Belmont Hill population must be immune. Such a situation can only occur through a principle called “herd immunity”. Herd immunity is the notion that if a certain percentage of a community is immune to a disease, the disease will not be able to effectively spread and affect the remaining individuals. In contrast to some recent ideology suggesting that herd immunity can be achieved through intentionally infecting low risk individuals, this strategy is simply too dangerous in exposing individuals to the virus. Instead, herd immunity can only be realistically achieved through mass immunizations. While the percentage of a population needed to achieve herd immunity tends to be different for every virus, and while scientists predict that around 70% of the population must be immune to achieve herd immunity, the exact number for COVID-19 has yet to be determined. In order for Belmont Hill to be able to return to normal, the percentage of individuals who are immune within the community must reach this number, allowing the remaining population to remain safe from the virus.

To ensure that the threshold of herd immunity is achieved, the required percentage of the Belmont Hill community will either have to receive the vaccine or produce a positive antibody test. Since individuals will likely be tentative to receive the vaccine at first, this threshold may not be initially met by the community, in which case the school should continue to maintain its current precautions and guidelines, and should not require students to receive the vaccine. However, when the vaccine is commonly recognized to be safe by scientists, Belmont Hill should require individuals to receive the vaccine, similar to how schools mandate that students receive the flu vaccine. Only then, when the percentage of the community required to achieve herd immunity is vaccinated and immune, can Belmont Hill fully return to normal.