Why Dayton area kids say they are getting vaccinated

Kids getting a coronavirus vaccine at a Dayton clinic this week said they were getting the shot to protect themselves and vulnerable family members. They also desperately want to stay in in-person classes, and attend homecoming and sports competitions — all the things they missed out on last school year.

Five girls ranging from 12 to 16 years old got their first or second dose in the last hour of a vaccine clinic at Dayton Children’s Hospital on Wednesday. While their families had some input, all five girls said they decided to get vaccinated partly or entirely on their own.

The girls said they’re afraid of rising cases at their schools. The Ohio Department of Health reported more than 700 new COVID-19 cases (a number that likely lags significantly) this week among students in Montgomery, Warren, Greene and Miami counties. It’s difficult to know how many hundreds or thousands of area students are quarantining after exposure to these cases.

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Kimani Nettles, 13, a Stivers School for the Arts student, said she was there to protect her 2-year-old brother, Sebastian. Sebastian was born at 24 weeks, right before the pandemic hit. His health is fragile and Kimani worries that he could die if he gets COVID-19.

“It was my choice. I want to protect this little boy from COVID,” she said. Meanwhile, Sebastian laughed and played ball with a nurse. His face mask hung around his chin. Their mom, Larena Nettles, said it’s difficult to get him and other young kids to wear their masks.

“It’s pretty brave in my opinion for a 12-year-old to want to get a shot and a lot of adults are hesitant about it,” Larena Nettles said.

A minority of eligible children in Ohio and the Dayton area (about 39% statewide as of Friday) have received a coronavirus vaccine.

Mallory Kirk, 12, of Fairborn said she got the shot because she doesn’t want to get sick. She previously had pneumonia and spent four days in Dayton Children’s. She also struggled with virtual school last year and wants to avoid leaving the classroom. Several area schools have shut down or transitioned to remote learning in recent weeks due to soaring cases.

“It was really stressful last year because all the pressure was on me to do my schoolwork,” she said. “Most of the time, I did not do my work … The first semester when I did virtual, I failed all my classes. And then I went back to school and I brought all my grades up.”

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Joselin Nunez, 16, a Stebbins High School junior, said her family has been encouraging her to get vaccinated. Joselin lives with her grandmother.

“My grandmother is on the older side, so I was kind of scared more for her,” she said. “I’m the type of person that I’m not scared of needles, I’m not scared of vaccines. I like getting vaccines. So I was just like, if that’s going to keep my grandmother, my family safe, then I’m going to do it, just for her.”

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Joselin said it felt good to get her second dose.

“I just encourage all Hispanic people to get their vaccine” she said.

Kaylee Campbell and Brooklyn Cotton are 15-year-old best friends from Miamisburg who got vaccinated together. Echoing other parents, their moms both let the girls make their own decision.

“I wanted her to be able to make the decision,” Marsha Campbell said. “So it wasn’t just, ‘You’re doing this.’ I wanted her to come to the realization it was what’s best for her.”

Kaylee said cases have been going up at school and they both don’t want to get quarantined.

“We also decided to get vaccinated today so that we didn’t miss out on homecoming,” Brooklyn said. “We missed homecoming last year because of COVID. So if we got vaccinated before the 9th, we would have our second dose in time for homecoming and so we wouldn’t have to be quarantined.”

Both girls have their dresses already.

Brooklyn and Kaylee compete on Miamisburg High School’s competitive cheer team. Their competitions were mostly virtual last year, so they performed in a nearly empty gymnasium in front of a video camera. They’re hoping to compete in person this season.

“It was weird because we feed off the crowd,” Brooklyn said. “And so when that was the case, we didn’t do very well.”

Brooklyn said their classmates are deeply divided on the vaccine.

“There’s not a lot of in between people,” she said. “It’s either they’ve already been vaccinated or they don’t want it.”

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Daily numbers

Ohio reported more than 6,000 daily cases of coronavirus for the third day in a row Friday.

The state recorded 6,179 cases in the last day, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Ohio surpassed 7,000 daily cases for the first time since winter on Thursday. The 7,102 cases reported on Wednesday included a backlog of more than 1,000 cases that weren’t included previously due to a laboratory delay.

The state reported 81 deaths on Friday, bringing its total to 20,947, according to ODH. It’s the highest number of deaths reported in the past three weeks.

About 48% of Ohio’s population is fully vaccinated as of Friday, with 56% of eligible residents 12 and older getting the shot.

ExploreOhio reports more than 6,000 COVID cases for 3rd day in a row