‘It felt like nothing!’ N.J. 12-year-olds get their first Pfizer shots

Kids ages 12 to 15 hoping for a return to normal put their fear of needles aside to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Moorestown Mall Thursday.

Donald Cucuzzella receives a COVID-19 vaccine

Donald Cucuzzella, 14, of Burlington, N.J,, accompanied by his parents, Holly and Donald, is among the first children to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Burlington Country mega site in Moorestown. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Burlington County vaccine megasite at the Moorestown Mall had some 800 appointments set aside for kids Thursday — the day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 and up.

Among the first in line was Liz Byham, who drove her two children, 12-year-old Finn Brown and his 13-year-old sister, Liv Byham, more than an hour from Ocean County to receive their first doses.

“They’ve been waiting, anxiously waiting, for 12-year-olds to get approved,” Byham said, adding the kids wanted to get vaccinated and that there was a lot of excitement during the car ride.

“There was a lot of ‘woo-wooing’ on the way here.”

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Both Finn and Liv do not like needles, but said these shots weren’t too painful.

“I tend to, like, get really stressed about them,” Liv said. “But this one wasn’t that bad.”

“It felt like nothing!” Finn chimed in.

They were among the tens of thousands of New Jersey children between the ages of 12 and 15 who became eligible Wednesday to receive the Pfizer vaccine. According to the latest data from the state, children between 17 and under account for 12.1% (or 106,348) of the 881,991 cases confirmed through a PCR test. There have been only seven confirmed deaths from the virus in this age group within the state.

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The Murphy administration has not yet detailed a plan for vaccinating this cohort, but pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are all administering the shots to New Jersey residents 12 and up.

Jenna Baron, 12, admitted that she was “kind of” freaked out by needles, but was excited to get her first dose because it will “help us get back to normalcy.” She’s looking forward to getting back on an airplane to visit her grandparents in Florida.

“I haven’t been on a plane since March 1, 2020,” she said. “I really miss going on vacation.”

Jenna does theater and participated in both an online and in-person musical in the last year.

“It’s so different … It’s pretty odd,” she said of performing in front of a webcam.

Jenna Baron, 12, of Voorhees, N.J., gets her first Pfizer COVID-19 shot from registered nurse Samantha Hickson at the Burlington County mega site in Moorestown. She is accompanied by her father, Robert Baron, a Vice President of operations for Virtua Medical Group. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

After receiving the shot, Jenna said she felt “good.”

Robert Baron, Jenna’s father, is a vice president of operations for Virtua Health, which operates Burlington County’s vaccination site. He said he had no hesitation in getting his daughter vaccinated.

“We trust the science and the years of experience that all the researchers and doctors and professionals have put into developing this type of technology and science,” he said.

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