PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — High-risk teens are now starting to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in the Tampa Bay area.
It’s a big relief for one local teen who hasn’t been able to attend school during the pandemic.
“I get very sick,” said 17-year old Matthew McCrary, who has severe asthma and can’t risk being exposed to COVID-19.
Since the pandemic hit, the 17-year-old has been learning from home, and away from friends.
“I’ve been friendless for basically a year now and I miss them,” he said.
Life turned a corner this week. After getting approval from his doctor, Matthew was able to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
“It was a little painful at first but it wasn’t that bad. I did not have any side effects,” said Matthew.
Pfizer is currently the only vaccine approved for people as young as 16.
“I did a lot of research. I wasn’t concerned at all. I mean enough adults and elderly had received the vaccine and there were no problems, no issues, no side effects,” Matthew’s mom Laura McCrary said. “The only side effect my son told me he had was a sore arm.”
His mom says it’s a big relief, and she’s not alone. All over Tampa Bay, parents are scrambling to protect their medically-vulnerable children.
“We want to attack that population first,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, the chief medical officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Perno is not involved with McCrary’s case but says All Children’s is one of many facilities now vaccinating at-risk teens.
“A lot of these are kids with depressed immune systems, possibly lung problems – things that, if they get COVID, it will be way more severe for them than a healthy child,” he explained.
Dr. Perno said medical facilities are following CDC guidelines when it comes to determining if teens are at-risk.
Getting the shot has been a dose of hope for Matthew Mcreary and his mom.
“He sure does miss his friends. I mean, I feel awful for him. I can’t wait until he gets back in school,” said Laura McCrary.
“I’m excited to go back to the mall and stores and such. And then after that I won’t have to worry as much about it,” said Matthew, who hopes to return to school next year.