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A healthcare worker gets the first vaccination.
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Top Photo: A healthcare worker gets the first vaccination.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines from two different companies for emergency use, giving our COVID-surging country a much-needed shot in the arm.

Both vaccines are being delivered and administered to people nationwide. The vaccinations require two doses, given three to four weeks apart. There are not enough doses of the vaccine for everyone yet, so the federal government created recommendations for prioritizing the distribution. Each state has its own process for deciding exactly how to PRIORITIZE who gets the shots.

In Arizona, the first phase of these priority groups included front-line healthcare providers, emergency medical service workers, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said last month that vaccinations should be available to the general public by March or April.

In clinical tests, one vaccine showed 95 percent effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, while the other vaccine tested as 94 percent effective! 

Like many other vaccines, there are possible SIDE EFFECTS that are normal signs of the human body building protection. The side effects should go away within a few days and may include pain and swelling in the arm where the shot is administered, fever, chills, tiredness, and a headache.

Neither of the vaccines is currently approved for anyone under the age of 16, but they are being tested in kids as young as 12 now. There is not an exact timeline on when vaccines will be available for kids, but there is hope that there will be a PEDIATRIC vaccine available by the end of 2021.

It may feel frustratingly slow, but the emergency use authorization for these two vaccines has happened quickly compared to other vaccine approvals. The fastest any vaccine had previously been developed, from start to finish, was for mumps in the 1960s and it took four years. Scientists have been working around the clock to get the COVID-19 vaccine approved this quickly, and some people think this will change the future of vaccine science.

AZ SciTech Festival Celebrates Its 10th Year!

The pandemic lockdown might have made students rusty when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), but something big and bright is sure to spark your STEM interests—the 10th annual Arizona SciTech Festival and its pullout section in this edition of Bear Essential News! 

The statewide festival goes virtual this year—it kicks off on Jan. 30 and runs through Feb. 28.

Arizonans of all ages can be INSPIRED by the fun and engaging events, experiments and other activities brought to you by the third largest science festival in the country! 

This celebration of all things STEM in Arizona includes about 3,000 events in more than 80 cities, towns and communities. Some of the hottest AZ SciTech happenings will be this year’s Signature Virtual Events, including Bear’s annual Young Reporter Science Night, which will shine a spotlight on the amazing wildlife and ecosystems of our Sonoran Desert! Saguaro National Park is one of the night’s partners. 

To let you figure out what you want to take in, the AZ SciTech Festival has an 8-page pullout in this edition of Bear Essential News, starting on page 9. This handy guide has a planning calendar, challenging activities and links that just might put you on the road to a STEM-related career that you’re gonna love. Who knows? You might even change the world! 

Be sure to visit for the list of Signature Virtual Events and the other events and hot happenings of this STEM spectacular. 

The AZ SciTech Festival is very much a grassroots effort organized by the SciTech Institute and fueled by thousands of STEM volunteers, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona Science Center, Arizona Technology Council, Arizona Board of Regents, ASU and the University of Arizona. Kids in grades 2 through 8 can join Bear’s Young Reporters Program as Science Reporters! Visit and print out a Sign-up Form for your area, and be sure to put Science Reporter at the top of the form! Stay tuned for details on our Young Reporter Science Night.

January 2021