Shortly after arriving Wednesday morning at the Southern Nevada Health District Community Health Center, Las Vegan Christy Ruffolo feels like she can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Or she’s well on her way, at least.
Ruffolo was onsite with her 2-year-old daughter Stella and was one of several dozen parents who brought their little ones to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Wednesday marked the first day it became available throughout the valley for youngsters under 5 years old. The federal Food and Drug Administration late last week authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those between 6 months and 4 years old, and it approved Moderna shots for those children between 6 months and 5 years old.
“I’ve been waiting to get her vaccinated since forever,” Ruffolo said. “She was born right in December (2019), so she’s been on lockdown her entire life.”
The health district is offering the three-dose series of the Pfizer shot at its clinics at the College of Southern Nevada’s West Charleston and North Las Vegas campuses, as well as the Galleria at Sunset mall, the Boulevard Mall. The SNHD Community Health Center at 280 S. Decatur will offer the two-dose Moderna shot too.
Children who have already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated, health officials urged, stating the vaccine can still provide added protection from the coronavirus and its variants. However, children who have already been infected should wait three months after the start of their symptoms before getting the shot.
For parents like Jessica Caceres, who brought her 22-month-old daughter, Ava, to the vaccination site Wednesday, inoculation provides an added sense of security, especially because Ava will often take her mask off or get fussy because she has to wear it.
“It’s a sigh of relief,” Caceres said, donning a black N-95 mask while holding Ava. “Now when we travel or get on a plane, you still have to worry about it but you don’t have to be as freaked out. She won’t wear a mask, so this is her only line of protection.
“And, now, once they get (fully) vaccinated and case numbers go down it’s like, OK maybe we won’t wear a mask all the time because she’ll have some form of protection.”
Other parents, like Mallory Waters, said she felt it was her duty to get her 4-year-old daughter, Ava, vaccinated — not only for her safety, but for those around her too.
Albeit nervous, Ava had her Ferdinand the Bull plush to keep her company, and only offered a nod when asked if she was ready to get her shot.
“It’s a public health thing,” Waters said. “It’s a safety measure that we can take. We want to feel safe with her in public, and it’s literally one of the easiest things to do, so why not do it.”
Public health experts agree that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, meaning as strains like the omicron variant continue to become increasingly contagious, the coronavirus will be among the many health conditions, like the flu or the common cold, folks deal with.
So now that the coronavirus vaccine is available to virtually all Americans, those old and young who have been holding out for a return to normalcy might finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“I think we’ll all have boosters and we’ll all have to think about traveling to places without masks and stuff like that,” Waters said. “I don’t think we’ll ever get back to normal, but it does feel nice to finally have that last age gap covered.”