‘This is the day we’ve been waiting for:’ COVID-19 vaccine rollout for local 5-11 year-olds begins

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Less than 48 hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, parents waited outside the Ballad Health Community Vaccine Center with their kids.

“This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” mother Amber Wagner said.

“They’re so excited to finally offer this level of protection to our kids,” Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said.

“In the last 18 months we really haven’t eaten out at a restaurant,” Wagner said. “Any indoor activities – we avoided. Things that they liked to do like Just Jump – we haven’t done activities like that.”

It is one of the many reasons Wagner brought her two children, 10 year-old Garrett and 8 year-old Aubrey, to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I have been so excited for my kids to be able to get theirs,” Wagner said. “Just that we feel we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves as well as the community.”

Wagner has worked on the frontlines during the pandemic as a nurse manager at the Johnson City Medical Center. She has seen the toll COVID-19 has taken on her community firsthand.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “The number of patients we have in the hospital, very few of them are vaccinated. So, it’s hard to not think ‘How could this not be different.'”

So, Wagner and her children rolled up their sleeves to help try and turn things around.

“They’re excited to be able to do that today,” Wagner said.

“I’m excited, because whenever I want to go somewhere – I don’t have to worry about me not having my shot so I can take my mask off,” Wagner’s daughter Aubrey said.

“I’m just glad I can feel more comfortable without my mask on,” son Garrett said.

Both children bravely received their shots this morning, as Wagner watched on proud.

“It’s just the flu shot with different stuff in it,” Garrett said prior to the injection.

For being so brave, Garret and Aubrey each got to pick out a prize while they waited their 15 minutes in observation.

Once their immunity kicks in, Aubrey knows exactly what she wants to do.

“I want to go to is Just Jump, because we have a reservation there from church,” she said.

“The kids have been through so much and they’ve lost so much and so this really is the first step to getting the kids’ lives back to normal – in school, in normal activities – it’s just a great day for the community,” Swift said.

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