Eduardo Torres, 53, got up early Thursday morning in Chicago when he heard the news on television: Younger teenagers, including his 14-year-old daughter Raquel, were now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
“I told my wife, ‘I have to take her to get vaccinated – right away,” he said.
The world’s first mass coronavirus vaccination campaign for children kicked off in earnest Thursday in the United States after the federal government recommended making the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine available to people ages 12-15. In some states, vaccinations against teenagers had already started this week, such as Maine.
At 9:30 a.m., Raquel was among the first children in her age group to be vaccinated in a location near Wrigley Field, excitedly listing the things she could do when fully vaccinated. Go back to her high school in person. See your friends without worrying. Get back to volleyball and bowling.
“It is just a nice thing to have this available,” said Mr Torres.
The beginning of recordings for younger people marks a crucial phase in the race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, which will open the vaccine to millions of teenagers far earlier than many experts had predicted. There are approximately 17 million children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the United States, which is approximately 5 percent of the population. The changes – meaning people 12 and older are now eligible – also opened up the possibility that many more children will soon be returning to some semblance of normality, attending camps this summer and returning to personal school this fall.
“Children have suffered disproportionately from this disease in many ways, especially psychologically,” said Dr. Paul Offit, Pediatric Infectious Disease Expert at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, the disruption of children’s routine, dropping out of school and inability to make friends that contributed to feelings of isolation and mental emergencies in children during the pandemic.
“This is your ticket out of this problem,” he said.
Still, many parents are reluctant to put their children on the front lines of a vaccine they consider experimental. And unlike earlier stages of the vaccine rollout, there were few reports of crowds and long lines in the first hours of eligibility on Thursday when there were lots of kids in school.
In New York City, 14-year-old Julian Boyce was part of a group of teenagers who were first vaccinated Thursday morning at Harlem Hospital Center. His family has known up to 20 people who have died from Covid-19, his father said, and Julian has spent much of the last year indoors keeping up with work at school and playing video games.
Julian, an eighth grader at Cathedral School, asked a nurse to put his shot in the left arm so that pain would not interfere with his writing. Then he turned his attention to his cell phone.
“I just got my vaccine,” he wrote to his friends.
Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged parents to vaccinate their children to protect their families. “Parents, let’s take our zoomers off of Zoom and bring them back to life as usual,” he said Thursday morning.
Amanda Rosa contributed to the coverage.