NEWBURYPORT — For the first time this past weekend, patients at the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative vaccine clinic included those who aren’t yet old enough to drive themselves to their appointment.
Following the Pfizer vaccine’s emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday, May 10 and approval of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Advisory Committee on Wednesday, May 12, first dose appointments at the regional clinic were opened to those aged 12-15 over the weekend.
A total of 229 kids and teens in the 12-15 age group were vaccinated on Saturday, May 15 and another 311 on Sunday, May 16 at the Nock Middle School in Newburyport.
The kids had some mixed emotions before receiving the vaccine, with many feeling nervous before getting the shot.
Addison Rowe, age 12, accompanied by her brother Brady, age 14, and mom Julie, said she thought the shot was scary, but added that it didn’t hurt as bad as she thought it would.
Macie Carter, age 12, who was accompanied by mom Gretchen Keville, said she didn’t want to get the shot, though she said Dice, Pentucket Middle School’s therapy dog, was cute and made things better.
The nerves of some kids were outweighed by the significance of being vaccinated and what it meant to being able to get back to normal.
“I was a little bit nervous when I got into the school, but before I was excited to get it because I knew that once I got both of them I could go on vacation and I wouldn’t have to wear a mask,” said Harrison Allain, age 12.
Grace Jezowski, age 15, said, “It was definitely less stressful than I thought it would be. It’s kind [of] confusing going through all the stations, but I feel like when you go for the second shot it’ll be way easier.”
Gavin Jalbeot, age 13, had a similar perspective, saying “It was much better than I thought it was going to be, it didn’t hurt really, it just pinched a little bit.”
What made everything worth it for many of the kids was knowing that getting vaccinated meant getting back to many of the things they couldn’t do for the past 14 months.
Macie Carter is looking forward to summer camp, while Kylie Normandie, age 13, and Grace Jezowski both are excited to see more of their friends.
Some of the kids also alluded to their excitement about one day being rid of masks, with Gavin Jalbeot being excited to play more basketball without his mask, and Brady Rowe being excited to go more places without having to wear a mask. Traveling was another popular aspiration for the kids.
The accompanying parents also felt excited and relieved when their kids became eligible, knowing the shot provided them an extra layer of protection.
Sara Jalbeot, Gavin’s mom, said, “I was thrilled. As a 13-year-old he probably comes into the most close contact with people on a daily basis, so we will feel a lot better once he’s fully vaccinated like the rest of us.”
Jacqueline Bruce, mom of Harrison Allain, works in the healthcare field and was excited to find out that Harrison would be eligible.
“I got my vaccine back in December. I was one of the first people to get it and I thought it was important to be clear about my belief in the research that had been done and that I trusted what we were being told,” Bruce said.
She added, “For Harrison, I felt like as soon as it opened up I wanted to show that, you know, I had no second thoughts, that I feel very comfortable with where we’re at and that we’re obviously moving in the right direction, and that, you know, I think everyone should be actively trying to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. So the fact that we were able to come so quick was great.”
Along with the 12-15 year-old patients, 566 people ages 16-18, 279 people ages 19-25 and 1,359 aged 26+ received a dose of the vaccine over the weekend.
The Collaborative’s regular weekend clinic sessions will end this week with the last session on Saturday, May 22. However, the Collaborative may run smaller clinics to meet the needs of newly eligible age groups as well as assess the needs for possible future booster shots.
The Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative comprises Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury, and West Newbury.
JGPR is providing communications services to this effort on a pro bono basis.