Darrious West, 6, had to be comforted as a needle went into his arm at last Friday's vaccination clinic at the Lockhart Gymnasium. When asked about the experience afterward, he had little to say.
The clinic, which provided pediatric doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, felt like any other clinic. It didn't resemble the world where people argued about the shot, masks and public health guidance. Here, in a university gymnasium, children just saw it as a way to stay in school.
Alabama State University and Montgomery Public Schools partnered on the vaccination clinic for MPS students ages 5 to 11. The university had 300 pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine to administer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They'll do it again on Jan. 28.
Faith Roth brought her kids to the vaccination clinic. She said she wasn't hesitant to have them vaccinated, although she was happy their vaccination was not in the first round.
"I just feel like it was just like any other vaccine,” she said.
The kids sat in an aisle of chairs down the side of the gym as the nurses rolled a cart down the line. Their guardians sat in the bleacher seats a few seats away and spoke to them as they waited first to get vaccinated, and then for the required 15 minutes afterward. At least one had to be told to sit still — he was ready to go before his 15 minutes were up.
Some of the kids struggled with their clothes as they tried to find the best way to reveal their upper arms for the vaccine.
Dr. Quinton Ross, Jr., president of Alabama State University, waved plush syringes and viruses in front of the kids’ faces as the nurses administered the shots.
The kids felt that the shot was a little painful, not as scary as expected and did not seem excited to be vaccinated — they were happy it meant school could stay in-person for longer.
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Many of the kids at this clinic said they are happier having face-to-face learning. Parents and other guardians here hoped more vaccinated kids would mean fewer days of virtual learning. Montgomery Public Schools were virtual the week of the clinic in response to rising coronavirus cases in schools.
“You don't have to go virtual,” said Jenny Pierre to Jaylie, 9. “Are you excited about that?"
“Yeah,” Jaylie responded. “I don't want to go virtual.”
“That's a great way to ask that question,” said Pierre. “You should add that to mine. That's how I feel, not that I'm excited but I want to make sure they stay in person.”
As of Sunday, the case totals for Montgomery Public Schools were listed as 728 cases on the Alabama Department of Public K-12 Covid dashboard. In the week the decision was made to go virtual, Montgomery County Schools had 861 cases on the case tracker.
The students who attended the vaccination clinic seemed to agree that the shot did not hurt nearly as much as they thought it might — even though they weren't scared to be vaccinated.
Jaylie and Jarron, 10, argued over whether Jaylie was afraid of being vaccinated. She said she was scared of needles, not of getting the COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Peyton Roth, 10, said that it was less scary than she thought it would be to get the shot. She said it "hurt a little for a second but then it stopped.”
Most of the kids who attended sat quietly in their seats as President Ross waved the plush medical equipment in front of their faces. Roth, watching from the bleachers, commented that it looked like he was treating the kids like babies.
When asked if he would have anything to say to kids his age who are afraid to get vaccinated, Davien West, 10, said, “Count sheep.”
Jaylie said she would have nothing to say to kids her age who have not gotten the vaccine yet.
“Most of my friends already got Covid,” she said. “Most of them already got the vaccine.”
The second vaccination clinic in collaboration between Montgomery Public Schools and Alabama State University for Montgomery Public Schools students aged 5-11 will be held Friday. Children should be accompanied by a guardian to sign consent forms and provide government-issued identification. Children should wear clothes that allow easy access to upper arms.
Jemma Stephenson is the children and education reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser. She can be reached at email@example.com or 334-261-1569.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: COVID-19 shots no big deal to children at ASU vaccination clinic