High school students receive the COVID-19 vaccine. What do they think?

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With all states having opened, or announced their opening, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to residents aged 16 and older, teens are among the last groups vying for the vaccine.

An effort underway in Franklin County, Ohio has put high school kids first and made it as easy as possible to get two doses of the Pfizer vaccine – the only one currently allowed for 16-year-olds .

“It’s really important to think about the fact that teens don’t live alone. If we are trying to target the whole community to reduce the rate of COVID, in order to reduce this transmissibility, we cannot ignore this young population, ”Dr Sara Bode, primary care physician and medical director of Care, told ABC News. Connection School-Based Health and Mobile Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “We really need to make them play a big role in this awareness, otherwise we’re just going to change who gets COVID and go through it, even if it’s asymptomatic.

Last week, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus launched an initiative with the local health department to organize adolescent vaccination clinics in every public school district in Franklin County. Students aged 16 and over who attend a school that has partnered with the hospital can register to receive the vaccine. They must have the written or verbal consent of their caregiver.

On the first day of the program, Wednesday, more than 600 students signed up for their first dose of Pfizer at Thomas Worthington High School. The program aims to expand to more sites and deliver the two doses of the vaccine to between 12,000 and 15,000 students over a six-week period.

“It’s really important to think about these essential ways in which we can be creative, but this is not a small business,” Bode said. “Ensuring the quality and safety of the way we administer [the vaccine] is definitely an operation. “

Young adults (aged 18 to 29) are more likely to wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Although a pre-survey of school districts found there was great interest in the community in adolescent clinics, said Bode, who believes donating the vaccine to a trusted resource like a school can help overcome hesitation about vaccination – as well as making caregivers feel more comfortable when their child is vaccinated without their presence.

“Our first school district we went to had an 80% positive response rate that they would like to have their eligible teens vaccinated,” Bode said. “It was really encouraging for us that families were interested in this, and I think they know and understand the importance of providing their teenager with the opportunity to be vaccinated. “

Many students vaccinated in the early days of the clinic felt lucky to be able to get the vaccine, which is still in limited supply.

“A lot of my friends and other classmates were really excited to have the opportunity to get the shot, and a lot of people I know did,” 16-year-old student Greta James told ABC News. sophomore at Thomas Worthington High School. “The people who couldn’t get it were not yet 16 and they were really disappointed that they couldn’t get it yet. “

Many students said they considered receiving the dose of vaccine one more step towards a return to normal life. For James, that includes seeing his family safe while on vacation and performing live theater again.

“This year has been so difficult having to film all of our shows, and I would just love to perform in front of a live audience again,” she said. “It’s definitely one thing I really miss that COVID has taken me away. “

Lilly McAdams, 16, a senior at Worthington Kilbourne High School, already had a date scheduled in Springfield, about an hour away, before she could get the shot at Thomas Worthington last week.

“I know this is something that will really determine social availability in the coming months,” she told ABC News. “And I also have asthma. I’ve had it my whole life. It has improved in recent years, it makes me even more at risk. So since I had the opportunity, it was a really good idea. . “

Once they are fully vaccinated, McAdams said she looks forward to spending more time with her friends.

“I haven’t hung out with another person outside of school for over a year at this point,” she said. “I also can’t wait to graduate because I know the class of 2020 got next to nothing, they didn’t even have a prom. And it looks like my class is getting those two things. “

Ella Brown, 17, of Worthington Kilbourne, was among the first to receive a dose of the vaccine at the clinic on Wednesday.

“I wanted to be able to protect myself and others,” she told ABC News. “It’s the same as I feel with any other vaccine – if you can protect yourself from disease and if you get sick protect others from disease, if you have that luxury why wouldn’t you take advantage of it ? “

The athlete from all three sports also said the vaccine would make her more comfortable as she couldn’t always wear a mask. Under the state mask’s mandate, face coverings are only required off the field or playing field.

After 17-year-old Camden Beatty received a dose of the vaccine on Wednesday, Thomas Worthington’s junior said other classmates who received it the next day asked him how it went.

“They asked me if it hurt, how long did it take, how it felt,” he told ABC News. “Knowing that it wasn’t really having an effect on me, it might have helped them. “

Beatty is hoping her senior year can get back to normal and students don’t have to sit 6 feet apart for lunch or 3 feet apart in class. He also looks forward to seeing his extended family in Ohio more often.

“Family reunions, we don’t do it like we used to,” he says.

Last week, students walked the halls wearing “I got the COVID-19 vaccine” stickers and posted them on Instagram, James said. As more students receive doses of the vaccine, she says she feels more comfortable in person.

“We’re still in a pandemic, and it’s so real and very serious,” James said. “I just felt personally that going back to school most of the day with everyone there, my safety is not necessarily guaranteed.… Now that many of us have been vaccinated, the things are starting to look a bit safer now. “

A complete “return to normal” will take some time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that students distance themselves 3 feet instead of 6 feet, provided that masks and other mitigation measures are taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Once fully vaccinated, medical experts advise people to continue to wear masks and to distance themselves in most cases, as more of the population gets vaccinated.

For her part, Dr. Bode hopes to offer the vaccine to all adolescents who want it and to continue to organize clinics once the vaccines are authorized for children under the age of 16. key element in keeping the doors open.

“We’re just going to have a much easier time with fewer exposures, fewer quarantines, and the ability to continue to provide this learning in person,” Bode said. “We know they don’t do well with this virtual learning environment, and we need to be able to bring them back to full-time, in-person, five days a week learning. “

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