'It was a relief' | Riley County youth react to getting Pfizer vaccine

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May 21—Some teens who received a coronavirus vaccine dose Thursday said they felt a weight lifted off of them.

"It was a relief," said 13-year-old Ella Jones, who will be a freshman at Manhattan High School this fall.

The Riley County Health Department vaccinated 453 12- to 17-year-olds with Pfizer vaccines during a clinic at Pottorf Hall. Officials said no one reported adverse side effects.

The health department will administer the second vaccine dose to those who attended Thursday's clinic on June 10, said Julie Gibbs, director of the health department.

"We've had a few kiddos who have been a little nervous about getting the vaccine, but we have some great nurses in there and with this fun atmosphere, we hope to kind of relieve some of that anxiety," Gibbs said Thursday.

The clinic, complete with popcorn, snow cones, massages and axe throwing, had a special visit from Willie the Wildcat. Local businesses, such as Radina's and Manhatchet, donated items and brought services to the event.

So far, about 50% of eligible people in Riley County have received at least one vaccine dose, Gibbs said. With the opening of youth vaccinations, this adds about a couple thousand more eligible people, Gibbs said. This means the rate will likely change next week, Gibbs said.

"We're getting closer to that 70% (vaccination rate), which is our goal, but getting more of our 12 and up, that population, vaccinated is very important to increase those rates," Gibbs said. "But also to protect them against COVID with all of our sporting events that we have going on, other events that we have going on in the summer. It's very important for them to get vaccinated as well. They are affected by COVID as well; they are also carriers. They can carry that onto loved ones or friends who are at risk, so it's important for them to get vaccinated just as much as it is for adults."

Gibbs said there may be an increase in coronavirus cases this fall when school starts again, another reason why she said it is important for young people to get vaccinated.

Emily Cherms took daughter Ella and 16-year-old son Blake Jones to get vaccinated Thursday.

"Just trying to get back to the regular," Cherms said. "Like we want to be able to get back to all of our sports, all of our activities and family. We want to spend time with family, be able to go to the pools, go to the beaches."

Tiyanna Smith, 14, an incoming MHS freshman, said she received the vaccine so she "could be protected and go out and do all the things, and just be safe."

"Just keep others safe, so it doesn't spread any more than it has," she added.

Kelly Pecoraro, Smith's grandmother, accompanied her to the vaccine clinic Thursday. Pecoraro said her, her husband and Smith all had coronavirus in December, which the family wants to avoid.

"We would like to not do that again," Pecoraro said, "and we don't want anyone else to do it either."

Gibbs said demand has slowed for the vaccine from adults. The health department plans to host remote clinics and add incentives to get more of the public vaccinated this summer.