PHOENIX — Behind 12-year-old Ethan Crystal's mask was his smile. He was finally going to receive his first dose of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine.
“I’ve been really excited and really looking forward to the shot,” said Crystal. “I want to go back to playing basketball and school because I haven’t really got to do those things all quarantine and during Covid.”
He's waited months for his turn. His vaccination was a no-brainer for his mother Ellie Crystal.
“We felt like it’s been tested and trialed from adults down to their age and proven to be safe and effective and to us. It was really important to help not only protect the community but also to just get our normal life back," said Ellie Crystal.
The emergency use authorization allows nearly 17 million teens to be vaccinated, representing an additional 5% of the U.S. population.
Ethan Crystal wasn't the only one excited to get the vaccine. Hundreds of parents and children braved the heat and lined up around the block at C.O. Greenfield Elementary School on Thursday for the One Community Initiative's vaccine event for underserved youth.
The Equality Health Foundation, the HeroZona Foundation and other community partners vaccinated more than 700 12 to 15-year-old kids.
"We are excited by the Food and Drug Administration's announcement that children 12 and over can now be immunized against the coronavirus," said Alan "AP" Powell, Chairman of AP & Associates – Strategic Alliances, U.S. Army Desert-Storm Veteran, and founder of HeroZona. "We've operated several successful vaccination events and can now give parents and guardians in at-risk communities the chance to protect their kids as well."
Event attendees will also be offered free coronavirus nasal swab testing administered by Sonora Quest Laboratories, and food boxes for families in need provided by Grand Canyon University and CityServe.
"I'm extremely proud of my kid, my Luke," said Eric Merring. "We support him. He wanted to get the vaccine and he wanted it the first day." Luke Merring's mother Regina Merring was also beaming with pride. "We want to feel like we are not afraid to do things and thankfully we have these vaccines."
"It was relieving, we don't have to stress anymore," said Luke Merring.
"Families in our school district have had an especially difficult time living through the pandemic," said Roosevelt School District Governing Board President Lawrence Robinson. "By giving parents a way to keep their children safe from COVID-19, we are offering them a fighting chance at surviving the virus and returning back to some semblance of normalcy. This wouldn't be possible without Equality Health Foundation, HeroZona and the other partners committed to keeping our people safe. We're excited to continue this great collaboration."
"There are two main reasons we are here," said Dipika Sharma. Her son Rahul Sharma was one of the hundreds of kids to be vaccinated. "We all adults have gotten vaccinated and now if he gets vaccinated, all of us are safe. This is also how we reached herd immunity."
"I want to go back to school in person," said Rahul Sharma.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ was one of the vaccinators at the event.
"It's so important. I want to make sure my family is protected. My community is protected. And getting your kids vaccinated is an important way to do that. Vaccines are safe and they also prevent hospitalization and death which is important to me as a mother,” said Christ. "My 13-year-old has an appointment today."
Some parents are hesitant and that's why President of Equality Health Foundation, Tomas Leon says these events and education are critical for community buy-in.
“There’s a lot of questions and concerns and hesitation about getting the vaccine especially for their young kids, so it’s important they understand the risk and benefits," said Leon.
The second dose of the vaccine will be administered at the same location on June 3.
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