The COVID-19 vaccine: Located at a ‘super site’ near you


Adriana Flores

Traffic sign directs people towards the Disneyland Resort vaccination site in the Toy Story parking lot.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of fatalities all around the globe. People’s lives have changed dramatically. Many have suffered a family/friend loss or experienced challenging circumstances due to COVID-19. There are currently more than 109 million cases globally and more than 27 million cases in the United States. The state of California has passed 3 million cases, with more than 47,000 deaths. Orange County has more than 256,800 cases and there are more than 3,500 deaths. However, there is hope for the future now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available for Orange County residents 65 and older, essential workers, healthcare workers, and educators. 

Vaccine developers have worked rigorously throughout the past year, testing the vaccine on a variety of different individuals. There are currently two authorized vaccines being used: the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses in order to be effective; the second dose is administered about three to four weeks after the first shot. Vaccination distribution is organized through phases, with high-risk individuals as a priority.  The active phases at the moment are Phase 1A and 1B, Tier 1. This includes long term care facility residents, healthcare workers, educators, food service, grocery and agriculture workers, child care providers, and emergency services. 

The Othena app by CuraPatient assists individuals with setting up appointments for vaccination at local super sites. Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Soka University in Aliso Viejo, and Santa Ana College are three local vaccination sites. According to Othena, more than 198,000 doses have been administered, more than 657,800 patients are registered, and more than 219,300 have scheduled appointments. People who received their first dose of the vaccine by booking through Othena will have a second dose appointment scheduled for them. During the first few days, several users had difficulties booking their appointments due to the high volume of people trying to secure a spot. The app developers have since made a few upgrades to prevent online traffic while registering. Othena is currently only available in English, but more languages are said to soon be released.

Over the past few days, Orange County Health Officials announced that those in Phase 1B, Tier 1 are now eligible to receive the vaccine. This includes educators, food service, grocery and agriculture workers, child care providers, and emergency services. Individuals within this tier can start getting vaccinated next week. Beginning March 1, school-based employees in Orange County will be eligible to receive the vaccine. 

According to the Orange County Department of Education Newsroom, “While the state initially discussed categorizing school employees into risk-based tiers based on their roles, officials are no longer pursuing that option. That’s because educators and support staff will now be able to go anywhere to get a vaccine, including Super PODs, private clinics, CVS, Rite Aid or their own doctors, and it wouldn’t be feasible for those providers to independently verify job responsibilities.”

Although our teachers and staff will soon be vaccinated, the future is still uncertain for students. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is currently only for individuals 16 years of age and older, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is authorized for individuals 18 years of age and older, according to the FDA.

Former Middle College High school principal Claudia Flint has already received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She and her husband were among some of the first to secure appointments for the Disneyland Resort supersite. Flint and her husband were able to obtain appointments for Thursday, Jan. 14.

“It was actually very easy, and it was very well organized. We were happy about that,” said Flint.

The Toy Story parking lot has various tents set up. Individuals have to show verification of an appointment, an identification card, and sign papers agreeing that they understand potential risks from the vaccine. Afterward, patients head to a separate tent to receive their vaccine dose. They then move on to the final tent and wait about 15 minutes, which allows doctors to monitor any sort of reaction some may experience.

The only common side effect Flint experienced was a sore arm that lasted a few days. After arriving home from their appointment, she noticed that her second dose appointment was already scheduled on Othena.

“I was thrilled,” said Flint, when she heard the news that OC residents 65 and up were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. “I have been very nervous this whole last year. Aside from the fact that I’m older, I also have asthma… I have been very worried for almost a year now that I was going to get sick.”

Individuals with certain health conditions are most at risk of becoming infected. The CDC stated, “People with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. COVID-19 can affect your nose, throat, lungs (respiratory tract); cause an asthma attack; and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.”

Flint has two adult daughters and grandchildren who she hasn’t seen much in the past year due to the pandemic.

“When we were in line to get the vaccine, we sent our younger daughter a picture of us in line and she cried. She was so relieved that we were getting the vaccine, and that was very touching,” said Flint.

The fear of becoming ill has overcome many families, but the vaccine brought some much needed optimism for the future.

Statistics and data provide insightful information about the virus and the number of cases in different states. Even with this information at hand, there are still some people who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and that the vaccine is not effective.

“COVID is real. People are dying from it… it is not a political thing and there are so many people in this county that still want to say ‘It’s no big deal’ and they don’t want to wear a mask,” said Flint.

Dr. Frank Zaldivar is a research immunologist in the department of pediatrics at UCI Health. Since March 2020, his laboratory has supported COVID-19 related clinical trials with high hopes of finding new treatment regimens that can help infected patients survive. He himself has already received two doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Zaldivar described his initial thought as “a sense of relief,” when he heard the news that OC residents 65+ and healthcare workers could now receive the vaccine.

“When the FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization to Modern and Pfizer, my very pessimistic view turned to hope for the future. Imagine, we now have a way to protect our communities! The data shows that the vaccine will reduce the symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2 by 90%-94%. This is amazing. So the clinician scientists did their job by developing a vaccine and testing them in humans, now we need to get the vaccine into the arms of our parents, grandparents, and young folks. This will hopefully get us back to pre-COVID times,” he said.

While a vaccine has been developed, there is still some doubt from the public concerning its effectiveness.

Dr. Zaldivar stated, “Some people think that the vaccine approval process was rushed. Absolutely not. The process was as follows, the vaccine had to demonstrate positive results in animal studies and using human cell lines in the laboratory. They then took those positive results and asked the FDA for permission to start testing the vaccine on humans. This is called a Phase 1 clinical trial, followed by Phase 2 and Phase 3. The clinical trials needed to prove that it is first of all safe in humans and second, effective in protecting you from COVID-19.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have informative facts and statistics on their websites, regarding vaccination and mythbusters.

The CDC stated, “COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness… Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.”

Dr. Zaldivar believes that as a community we have to work together and follow state regulations in order to “put a lid on the spread of the virus.”

Young adults tend to ignore the severity of COVID-19, but they can still get sick and bring the virus home to their vulnerable family members.

“Wear your masks, social distance, and wash your hands.” We have heard these words numerous times over the past year, and it’s what Dr. Zaldivar recommends for all of us to continue doing.