For 12-year-old Henzie Cabrera, getting a Covid-19 vaccine means two things: school and soccer.
Although these are parts of life taken for granted for adolescents, they have been absent the past year for millions of young Americans.
And they were what Henzie felt most excited about as he went with his mother to try and get an appointment at a CVS pharmacy in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“I hate it, school has been so hard,” Henzie told CNN affiliate KCBS of the last year in the pandemic. “It’s not normal.”
When asked how he would feel after being vaccinated, Henzie had one word: Free.
After the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week approved vaccinating adolescents as young as 12 against Covid-19, many immunization locations offered first doses to their youngest clients Thursday morning.
Many of the new vaccine-eligible population, once used to sitting in a classroom with their friends and playing sports after school, have spent more than a year stuck at home and limited to interacting with their families. Now that they can be protected against the virus, they are eager to get back to a normal life.
“I’ll still wear my mask, but now I can travel the state to play baseball, because I play on a team, also so I can see my family and hang out with them more,” said Brandon Beasley, a 12-year-old from Chicago.
Even for those who have begun going back to the classroom, vaccination is another step toward normalcy.
“I’m kind of done with wearing masks, and I kind of want school to go back to normal so everyone can go back and sports can go back to normal,” said 15-year-old Gweny Lopez, also from Chicago. “I’m doing hybrid but not a lot of people go in still and so it’s definitely not like it usually is.”
Although children and teens have not been classified as the age group at the greatest risk for severe Covid-19 illness and death, they are still vulnerable, experts say.
More adolescents have been hospitalized for severe coronavirus disease than are usually hospitalized for influenza, the CDC said Wednesday.
“Adolescents 12 to 17 years of age are at risk of severe illness from Covid-19,” CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told a meeting of the CDC’s outside vaccine advisers. “There have been over 1.5 million reported cases and over 13,000 hospitalizations to date among adolescents 12 to 17 years.”
And children and teens are starting to make up a larger proportion of coronavirus cases, Oliver said.
For some parents, the availability of vaccines is a welcome relief.
“We can’t wait for young adults to be able to do the same thing that everybody else is doing: be able to meet in groups, be able to relax a little bit and not be so stressed out about this infection,” said Renee Slade, whose teenage daughter Alana was vaccinated at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago on Thursday.
Alana said she was happy to get the vaccine too, and hopes her peers follow her lead so the pandemic can be over more quickly.
“Don’t be too scared, it’s just a pinch,” she said.