For These Teens, Getting the COVID Vaccine Means Hope: 'I Feel Like I Can Go Back to Normal Life'
The CDC on Wednesday approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 12 to 15
On Wednesday night, hours after the Centers for Disease Control gave the okay for kids ages 12 to 15 to get Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, Jacqueline Shroeder received a text from a nurse friend running a vaccine clinic. Could Schroeder bring her daughter, Moira, 13, over immediately for her first shot? There were 10 extra doses that needed to be used that evening.
"I was so excited, I told my daughter, 'Let's go, we're going to get a vaccine,' and she said, 'Now? I don't understand,'" recalls Jacqueline Schroeder, 42, of Haddon Heights, N.J. "I told her, 'Get a mask on, get your shoes and let's go.'"
By Thursday, parents across the United States were scurrying to make appointments after a CDC advisory committee gave its approval Wednesday. Clinical trials showed that Pfizer's vaccine is extremely effective in this age group and prevented COVID-19 illness in 100% of participants. Vaccinations of 12-to-15 year olds already started early last week in a few states, including Georgia, prior to the CDC recommendation.
For many parents and adolescents, the vaccine brings optimism that a return to life pre-COVID is on the horizon. There can be gatherings among friends, a feeling of safety during in-person learning, playing sports and music and going to summer camps.
"I am excited because it is a little bit of hope that this whole thing could end soon," says Lucas Grisafi, 14, of Montclair, N.J. who received his shot at a drive-through clinic set up at a local medical practice on Friday and will be working at a summer camp. "I feel like I can go back to normal life."
The sentiment Lucas expressed was echoed by other young teens. After Ella Golan, 13, of Livingston, N.J. waited on line at a CVS Friday with four other young adolescents, a nurse gave her a shot that "didn't hurt at all."
"I was really happy we could find a solution to this and booked my appointment right away," says Ella, an 8th grader from Livingston, N.J., adding that all her friends have signed up to get vaccinated. "I am very glad we got the option, and if me and my friends can get vaccinated we will feel safe without masks and be together."
For Deanna Sherman, 13, of the Bronx, New York, getting her vaccine at a Rite Aid pharmacy on Thursday also means it will be easier for her to attend her 8th grade graduation in person on June 25th. She has done remote learning all year due to health safety concerns of her family, but plans on returning in person next school year.
"I was really relieved and I was really excited," she says, "because getting the vaccine is really important if we want things to get back to normal. This enables me to be more willing to go into school or a store or see people I haven't seen in months."
For Deanna's mom, Rebecca Sherman, learning that their local pharmacy was giving vaccines made her feel "over the moon."
"I just want life to get back to normal for my kids and the first step is getting them vaccinated," says Rebecca, who also has an 11-year-old daughter and still fears for her safety.
Lucas's mother, Jen Grisafi, 52, echoed that sentiment. "It was very important for us to get our entire family vaccinated," says Grisafi, whose 17-year-old son is already vaccinated. "We take the threat of COVID very seriously, we don't want to get it, we believe in science and we believe in protecting our family. We are very excited they were able to produce this vaccine so quickly."
Sherman, who lives in New York City, the epicenter of the virus when it first hit in 2020, knows several people who passed away from COVID-19 at that time. "We were nervous nellies it was horrible in the beginning," she says. "The beauty of this shot means life can go back to what it was."
Still, some parents, while vaccinated themselves, have expressed some worry about their child getting vaccinated since there are some unknowns. As Ella's mom, Yafit Golan, 46, said, "I know there is no other choice to get rid of COVID but I am not sure it is 100 percent safe, I still have some questions, it's something new."
However, all three of her teen daughters are now vaccinated as is she and her husband. "The kids want to be safe, they want to go back to normal," says Golan. "I think they realize that is the only way to do it."
By 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Moira Schroeder was most likely the first 13-year-old in her tiny town be vaccinated. Her mother, Jaqueline, says she feels "slightly relieved and when she gets her second dose I will feel more relieved."
Diane Clehane of Greenwich, CT already feels that relief, as her daughter Madeline Donovan, 16, received her second dose on Friday at a drive through site in Stamford. A family member is immune compromised and Madeline stayed home from school for over a year for health safety while most of the students at her private girls school have returned to in-person learning.
"I am very relieved that Madeline can get out there and do more things as will I," says Clehane.
Adds Madeline of getting her second shot: "I was looking forward to it because I feel I have missed out on so much and I have only seen one friend in about a year. It will help with in person learning and I am working at a summer camp this summer for my first job, it will make me feel more comfortable."