Boston College has worked hard to contain the spread of COVID-19 on campus and has once again avoided a spike in cases from getting out of hand as the fall semester comes to a close.
Beginning on Nov. 9, BC experienced four consecutive weeks of over twenty positive cases of COVID-19 on campus, with the last three of these seeing over thirty cases. Positive tests spiked the week of Nov. 16 with 64 undergraduates reporting positive tests. While this does not top the 73 positive cases from the week of Sept. 7, it is a concerningly close second place. Nonetheless, the last week of classes on campus saw only 12 positive cases, a good sign for those students wishing to return to campus in the spring. All things considered, BC’s contact tracing team and commitment to large-scale testing have prevented things from getting out of hand, and their efforts along with those of the student body at large have kept the Heights operating as close to normal as possible. Hopefully this is a trend which will continue into the spring semester.
Across the United States, cases of COVID-19 are surging as the nation experiences yet another wave. Over 16 million Americans have now been infected as the year comes to a close. Massachusetts saw a rise of almost 5,500 cases on Dec. 11 alone. Though this is a sad statistic, there is some light at the end of the tunnel: the FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for all individuals over the age of 16 on Friday, Dec. 11, in addition to announcing the purchase of 100 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
Pfizer’s vaccine uses viral mRNA taken from the coronavirus to hijack cells and create the coronavirus’s distinct spike protein, a part of the virus which allows it to latch onto human cells. By allowing the body’s cells to produce this protein, an individual’s immune system can learn to combat the virus without the need for viral particles to be used in the vaccine.
The study which led to the EUA for Pfizer’s vaccine consisted of over 35,000 individuals, of which over 18,000 received the vaccine. The vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing cases of COVID-19, with only eight individuals who received a vaccine contracting COVID-19 and only one of these cases being deemed severe. In addition, the only noted side effects include muscle and joint pain, pain at injection site, tiredness, chills, fever, and headache, all of which were more frequent with the second dosage of the vaccine than the first. Some individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine experienced symptoms similar to Bell’s Palsy, a partial paralysis of the face which is treatable and usually resolves within days or weeks. However, according to Dr. Sara Oliver of the CDC, there is “no known or expected causal relationship between the vaccine and Bell’s palsy,” but the CDC will continue to monitor cases as vaccines are handed out.
President-Elect Joe Biden has also begun outlining his COVID-19 response plan. Within his first 100 days as president, Biden plans on distributing at least 100 million doses of vaccines, along with pushing for the majority of schools around the country to open during the same time. Vaccines would be prioritized for front line healthcare workers along with teachers, along with a request for $30 billion in aid from Congress. “We’re in a very dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better,” Biden said, while promising that the United States will come out the other side of this pandemic stronger and more united than before.