Berkeley 12- to 15-year-olds line up eagerly for vaccines

Over 150 families showed up at Civic Center Park Thursday. By 3:30 p.m., the clinic had distributed 114 doses and had nearly run out of vaccines for the day.

Teenagers, many with their families, wait in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Civic Center Park Thursday. Credit: Ally Markovich

Berkeley adolescents ages 12 to 15 lined up by the dozens Thursday to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Berkeley.

Two Berkeley vaccination sites opened Wednesday and Thursday to anyone ages 12 and up. The pop-up vaccination site at Civic Center Park behind Berkeley High School is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m through Friday. The vaccination site at 1 Buchanan St. in West Berkeley is open every Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kaiser Permanente also opened vaccine appointments for adolescents ages 12-15 Thursday.

Vaccine supply had been exceeding demand for a couple of weeks in Berkeley when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds Wednesday. Berkeley Public Health followed suit, announcing that pre-teens and teens were eligible to get their first dose.

As word spread, over 150 families showed up at Civic Center Park Thursday, the line stretching down the block. By 3:30 p.m., the clinic had distributed 114 doses and had nearly run out of vaccines, sending most people waiting in line home as they distributed the remaining doses. On Monday, the clinic distributed 50 doses of the vaccine.


Gabriel (left), 13, gets comfortable waiting in line with his mom and sister at Civic Center Park Thursday. Credit: Ally Markovich

Both the Civic Center Park and Berkeley High School vaccination sites accept walk-up appointments. You don’t need to live in Berkeley or Alameda County or have a government-issued ID to get a vaccine. Undocumented individuals are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Nova Blazej’s 12-year-old daughter first saw a friend post on Instagram that the vaccination site at Civic Center Park was open to children. She told her mom, who rushed over to the vaccine site with her.

“We were ecstatic because everyone else in our family has been vaccinated,” said Blazej, adding that the whole family now plans to go visit grandparents and begin planning for the summer. “My daughter loves live music and has been saving for whenever she can do that again. It’s just been super uplifting and hopeful for her.”

Winta Tesfaldet and Sara Tesfai, both 10th-graders at Berkeley High, said visiting family was their top priority once they were vaccinated. “I want to go see my aunt. She recently lost her husband to COVID-19, and I want to be there to comfort her,” Winta said. Sara added that she hopes to visit relatives in Eritrea when she gets the second dose.

The pop-up clinic behind Berkeley High will be open through Friday. Next week, it will be replaced by a pop-up vaccination site at Longfellow Middle School, which will be open Tuesday and Friday, May 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Longfellow site will reopen again in three weeks for second-dose appointments. The site will provide vaccines to anyone ages 12 and up, but is specifically targeting adolescents and their families, as well as members of the neighborhood.

“We really want to get as many eligible kids 12 and older vaccinated going into summer,” said Lisa Warhuus, director of Berkeley’s Health, Housing and Community Services Department. “This is opening up much opportunity for the summer for young people who deserve it, after all of their patience and waiting.”

The city is considering opening vaccination sites at King or Willard middle schools, if there is community need, according to Warhuus.

Getting kids vaccinated is one way that the city and school district can ensure that schools reopen fully in the fall. “I think it’s a collective goal that all of our schools will be reopened in the fall. This is definitely a tool in our toolbox and a major one that will help make that happen,” Warhuus said.

Children under 18 need consent from a parent or guardian to receive a vaccine. A parent or guardian can come to the vaccination site, provide a signed note of consent, or call to provide consent during the appointment.

This story was updated after publication.

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that there is no residency requirement for getting the vaccine.

Ally Markovich covers education for Berkeleyside. Email: ally@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: allymarkovich.