1st young people to get vaccinated in DC ‘anticipating our return to normality,’ peace of mind

Fourteen-year old Michael Smith’s mom rubbed his shoulder soothingly as he sat down in the plastic chair to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to ward off COVID-19.

When the nurse from Children’s National Hospital explained he would be coming back in early June for his second dose, Michael raised his eyebrows — clearly not looking forward to a return appointment with a needle.

As quickly as flicking the joystick on a video game, the shot was done. Michael looked at his mother: “That’s it?”

“I get really nervous during the days when I hear I’m getting it,” Michael said moments later, as he and his mother sat in different chairs, to monitor for any rare allergic reactions. “I’m doing fine.”

On Thursday, the day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to clear the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old, Children’s National Hospital gave 100 young people their first doses.

Dr. Claire Boogaard, medical director of the Children’s National Hospital Vaccine Clinic, said the Pfizer vaccine is both safe and effective for children.

“It protected 100% of the kids that got the vaccine during the Pfizer trial against contracting the virus,” Boogaard said. “That’s about as good as you can get.”

In other words: “Zero people who received the vaccine actually got coronavirus.”

As a pediatrician, Boogaard said she understands that some parents have concerns about vaccines against COVID — or vaccines, in general.

“It is totally appropriate to be thoughtful about this vaccine,” Boogaard said. “It is new, and as parents we want to protect our kids and make sure what we expose them to is safe and effective.”

Boogaard said the occasional minor side effects of soreness at the injection site, and a day or so of malaise, is outweighed by the protection offered by the vaccine.

Parents can sign up children to receive the vaccine on the Children’s National Hospital Vaccine Clinic webpage.

Thirteen-year-old Cooper More and his 15-year-old brother Turner fist-bumped each other as they sat down in the recovery chairs.

“I can’t wait to go to the museums once they open again, and sporting events, and also to have a gathering of my friends where we don’t have to go through the house to go outside and sit 6 feet apart,” Cooper said.

The brothers are looking forward to the freedom that comes with being fully vaccinated.

“When you’re walking around, not thinking, ‘Oh, do I need to spread out,” said Cooper. “And, like when you go into a line, looking down to see if there’s a 6-feet marker.”

His older brother said while they were able to cope, soon they’ll be able to rest their coping skills.

“It was a life change, coming into it last March. As we moved through the pandemic it certainly became normal, but all of us are looking forward to that return to normality, where we can all go and do the things we love to do, every single day.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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