Hillsborough student with cystic fibrosis plans return to the classroom after COVID-19 vaccination


TAMPA (WFLA) – Thirteen-year-old Gareth Everett and his family have been extra cautious throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve had to be with cystic fibrosis,” his mother Annie Everett told 8 On Your Side. “It’s a lung disease. Even common cold can put Gareth into isolation at the hospital, so can’t even imagine or fathom what COVID-19 could do to him.”

The announcement Wednesday that the CDC director signed off on the FDA recommendation that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children 12 years and older is the perfect Mother’s Day gift for Gareth’s mom.

“I couldn’t tell you how happy I was when I found out that the vaccine is a go,” Everett says she cried when she received her “shot of hope.”

8 On Your Side first met Gareth last summer when he spoke before the Hillsborough County School Board in support of requiring mask wearing for the 2020-21 school year.

Gareth is planning to return to the classroom for the start of seventh grade after not setting foot in his South Tampa middle school at all during sixth grade. 

His doctors told him after the CDC approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children his age, he should be first in line.

“Because it’s the best thing that can happen for me and since I’m very high risk taking this vaccine will help me a lot,” Gareth said.

While most children have mild or no symptoms, pre-existing conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes and obesity put pediatric patients at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19, said Dr. Allison Messina, the head of the Infectious Disease Division at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. 

“Even those kids that don’t have underlying conditions can get sick, can get very sick from this,” Dr. Messina said, “and also can develop after infection that multi system inflammatory disorder which is a disease of childhood.”

Dr. Messina wants to remind parents that full protection from the Pfizer vaccine doesn’t kick in until a week or two after the second shot.

Gareth’s mom has already made her son an appointment for his first dose on Thursday morning at a CVS Pharmacy in South Tampa. After his second shot, the family is planning a long-awaited reunion in June with loved ones in Chicago.

“I want to see my grandfather because he is recently going to need a lung transplant because he has lung disease,” Gareth said.

A Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesperson told 8 On Your Side the district is working with the Hillsborough County Health Department to set up youth vaccination clinics over the summer.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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