In San Diego County, there are 175,864 people aged 12-15. On Thursday, they became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, and dozens of them were quick to jump to the head of the line.
“I was real excited because it’s going to be more comfortable and relaxed getting the vaccination,” said Diego Lomeli, 13.
“I think I’m the first one from my school that got it already, so I’m really happy, but nervous at the same time,” Emily Acosta said.
Emily, 12, is a fifth-grader at Perkins Elementary School, making her one of the youngest to receive the vaccine.
“It’s important, not for me but for everyone -- and mostly for my family -- to know that if I had it, it will not make me have the COVID, and it will make my family safer,” Emily said.
The two were among dozens of kids in the newly eligible age group to get vaccinated at the Family Health Center, in Logan Heights.
For now, Pfizer is the only coronavirus vaccine authorized for use in minors aged 12-15.
Parental consent is required for the kids to get the shot, and the minors getting vaccinated must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Jovan Ortiz accompanied her younger brother.
“It’s important for them to go back to their normal life," Ortiz said. "It’s been a whole year. Epecially teenagers need to get back to their social lives. I really believe that."
Dr. Christian Ramers, with the Family Health Centers, called it another piece of the puzzle toward herd immunity. He’s encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated.
“The message to parents is: If you want your kids to return safely to school, safely back to sports, band practice, to all the things they’ve missed, this is the best way to do it,” Ramers said.
Although the eligibility pool has expanded, the demand for the vaccine has dipped dramatically. Sharp Healthcare officials sad that its super stations have seen a 50% drop in first-time doses compared with last month.
Since many adults are vaccine-hesitant, the concern for many health experts is that the same hesitancy may be passed on to their children.
“Parents might be skeptical," Ramers said. "They might have questions. If they're waiting and seeing, I think we've done enough waiting and seeing. There are 160 million people in the U.S. that have gotten vaccinated. The safety is impeccable. There's really not a lot of safety signals that are coming out. So now is the time to go about and do it, before the school year and our society opens up more."
Ramers is quick to lead by example. Among those youngsters getting vaccinated on the first day of eligibility was his 13-year-old daughter, Charlotte.
“It’s important for me because I really want to see my friends and feel safer at school and in my sports, and the vaccine will help me do that,” Charlotte said
The county has enough Pfizer doses on hand -- or coming in -- to vaccinate all eligible youths in the coming weeks, according to officials.