Graduations, proms and extracurricular activities – those are just a few of the many student events cancelled due to the pandemic. Studies are beginning to show it has taken a toll on kids, including 16-year-old Paul, who is a patient with the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Paul’s family took the pandemic guidelines seriously, by masking and physical distancing. However, the isolation from friends and family was tough for Paul emotionally, and academically.
“Before the pandemic, I had some depression and anxiety, but because of all the isolation the past year, it took over me,” Paul says. “Even physically being back in school I was still affected by it. It was all I could think about.”
When Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved for kids 12 and up, Paul didn’t hesitate rolling up his sleeve, as did the rest of his family.
“Mainly I wanted to do it so I could hang out with my friends and not wear a mask,” Paul says. “I want to get back to normal life as soon as possible. I wasn’t stressed about side effects of the vaccine. I’ve seen it’s beneficial and not harmful.”
Paul is still managing his depression and anxiety, but says writing music has helped him. He hopes to one day get studio time to record some of his songs. Meanwhile, his family and doctor friends are singing his praises.
“I know the pandemic has been extremely tough for so many teens and I’ve worked with many young adults, like Paul, to help them find ways to cope,” says Jasmine Reese, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic within the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. “Now that the vaccine is available for those 12 and up, I’m so proud Paul made the decision to get it, and continues to work on himself and get back to some form of pre-pandemic normalcy.”
His mom, Daisy, is also proud of the progress he has made.
“It’s such a sense of relief that everyone in our family is now vaccinated,” Daisy says. “My son has struggled a lot through the pandemic, but he’s putting the work in by taking ownership of his emotional, physical and intellectual well-being, and communicating openly hoping to help others find the help they need.”
Now as Paul gets ready to enjoy summer and gear up for his junior year of high school, he’s encouraging all youth to get the vaccine – bottom line he says, “It’s stupid, if you don’t.”
“Why wouldn’t you get vaccinated? Would you prefer to sit in your room or go out and live your life because we won’t get these years back.”
Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic for Kids 12+
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas and the Juvenile Welfare Board are joining together to help support a free vaccine clinic for kids ages 12 and up. Staff at the three sites will administer the Pfizer vaccine. Families must make an appointment by calling 727-824-6931 and minors must be accompanied by their legal guardian.
The clinics will be held at the following locations from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.:
Largo High School: first dose June 22, second dose July 13
Gibbs High School: first dose June 23, second dose July 14
Pinellas Park High School: first dose June 24, second dose July 15