D.C.-area parents appear to be excited by the prospect their younger teenage children could be vaccinated for the coronavirus despite concerns by critics who say vaccines may not be as safe as public health experts say.

On May 13, the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine became available to children ages 12 to 15. Jacque Patterson Sr., an at-large D.C. State Board of Education member and executive for KIPP charter schools, made sure his son, Jacque Patterson Jr., received his vaccination at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center the next day.

“I want to make sure Jacque Jr., is safe,” Patterson Sr. said. “He is 12 and attends D.C. public schools. I wanted him to get his shots because he will be spending time with his grandmother this summer and everyone needs to be safe when they are together.”

Jacque Patterson Jr. joins hundreds of students throughout the Washington region getting their coronavirus shots. Pfizer/BioNTech stands as the only vaccine approved for children 12 to 15 years old, although Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are working on their shots for youngsters under the age of 16.

President Biden said on May 10 that childhood vaccinations “are a promising development in our fight against the virus,” Reuters reported. Additionally, public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, say vaccinating youngsters serves as an important step to getting children back into schools safely.

However, youth vaccine advocates have some doubters. A Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor Data survey released earlier this month revealed nearly 29 percent of parents said they would get their children vaccinated “right away” as soon as their child become eligible and an additional 32% said they would wait to see how the vaccine performs before allowing their child to be inoculated. The survey said 15 percent of parents would let their child become immunized if the school required it and 19 percent said their youngster would not be inoculated under any circumstances.

Patterson Sr. said he discussed the matter with his wife and son. He said Jacque Jr. enthusiastically embraced being vaccinated.

“My son suffers from an allergic condition but he still wanted to go through with it,” Patterson said.
Maryland Del. Jay Walker (D-District 26) and his wife, Prince George’s County Council member Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8), supported their 12-year-old son getting the Pfizer vaccine, also.

“My son Jewel plays youth sports and had to engage in virtual learning all year,” Jay Walker said. “We want him not to get a positive result on a COVID test and the best way to fight that would be to get vaccinated. If he gets a positive test, he will not be able to practice.”

Both Patterson Sr. and Jay Walker said parents have the right to decide whether their child should be inoculated. However, Walker said parents “should trust the science” and “do what’s in the best interest of their children.”

Giani Clarkson, a Prince George’s County parent, said he understands why reluctance exists among African-American parents. While no doubt existed in his mind about his son Julian getting the vaccine, he said past medical abuses against Blacks such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments in the 20th century have justifiably created suspicion.

“I think people who are wary of the vaccine have a fair point,” Clarkson said. “I say to everyone, to each his own. But I put the burden of proof on the health departments to prove to people the vaccines are safe.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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