HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – As more kids head back into the classroom this week, many parents are racing to get their teens vaccinated against COVID-19.
For seventh grade student Violette Blondin, Tuesday couldn’t come soon enough.
“It felt good just to finally kind of do it and soon be done,” said Blondin.
On her birthday, nonetheless, the 12-year-old, who is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, marked her big day with the shot and is already looking forward to the second one.
“I'm excited to get this second one so I can be safe and make sure that everyone else is safe,” she said.
Blondin’s mom, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va., 2nd District), was by her side during the appointment at Military Circle Mall’s vaccination clinic.
“I said, ‘Do you really want to come on your birthday?’” Luria told News 3 as she recalled the day her daughter told her about wanting to get the shot the same day she turned 12.
The lawmaker said she supports a COVID vaccine requirement for school students.
“I think that now that Pfizer is the vaccine, it's been fully approved by the CDC, and we have a whole host of mandatory vaccines that children get from birth all the way through their first day of school, and so I think that this should be added to that list,” said Luria. “I think it's safe and effective. I brought my daughter the first day she could get it, so I really encourage other parents do that, too.”
The FDA approval for Pfizer’s shot for those 16 and older is what prompted eighth grader Liam Ruaya to roll up his sleeve before he heads back to class later this week.
“I’ve just been skeptical; I was just trying to wait it out just to see what would happen, and I think it's kind of time to get it,” the 13-year-old said. “[I’d] rather be safe than risking everyone else.”
Bob Engle is the emergency coordinator for the Virginia Beach Health Department, who’s helping to run the vaccination site. He said the number of people coming in each week for a shot has been increasing.
On Tuesday, more than 400 people were expected to get their vaccine.
“We are seeing a lot of parents bring their kids in for their first and second doses, getting them ready for school and that's a good thing,” Engle said. “Going back to school, parents are more concerned with their kids, and the mask mandate is another debate, but the best protection for their kids is the vaccine.”
Liam Ruaya, who spent all last school year virtually, is now ready to be back in person with his classmates.
His mom, Theresa Ruaya, now worries about his younger sister, who’s not yet old enough for the shot.
“How nervous are you as a mom?” News 3 asked.
Theresa said, “Super nervous. Super nervous. I don't want them to feel that way too. I want them to be safe and to be able to enjoy school and be with their friends, but it's a day by day thing, and we'll find out what the numbers are and how it affects everybody.”
No COVID vaccine has been authorized for children younger than 12 years old. That’s expected to happen in the fall or winter after clinical trials wrap up.
Starting next week, the Military Circle Mall clinic will also be open for vaccinations on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The clinic is currently open on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. COVID testing will continue on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.