OHIO — Just about every day Sarah Fares laces up her tennis shoes, picks up her racket and practices her sport.
“I also love to go to the gym," she said.
Fares is 16-years-old.
“I’m like an extroverted homebody,” she said.
The high school junior has played tennis her whole life.
“I like how competitive and individual it is," Fares said.
But even this socially distanced game wasn’t immune to coronavirus cancellations.
“Last year was the first time that I got to play for the boy’s varsity and my season was cut short. So, I was eager to get back," she said.
Back to life before COVID-19 dictated everything.
“My dad and my brother both got it, but my mom and I didn’t,” Fares said.
That’s partially why Fares decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a teen.
“Wanted to get it the second I was eligible to," she said.
There are several reasons for that.
“Win-win of protecting myself and calming my anxiety, but also protecting my friends," she said.
For one, both of her parents are doctors and her brother is studying to become one.
“So, from the get-go, you know, she grew up in an environment where we believe in science. We believe in medicine,” Sarah's mother, Dr. Hanan Nashed said.
“I’ve always gotten vaccines. I’ve always believed in them and they kind of just set an example for me in that way where I didn’t even have to question getting the vaccine. It just felt natural to do it," Fares said.
Her fear of needles and her age did make her a bit uneasy about the vaccine at first.
“I didn’t need any convincing,” she said. “I’m an anxious person. I obviously was skeptical, but I think watching my dad and mom and brother get both doses and even if they got sick after the second dose, they were fine and watching the teachers all get vaccinated. I knew that I had to get the vaccine and I wanted it.”
For Fares, the benefits outweighed any potential risk.
“I was not as nervous as I was ready," she said.
While experts say teens are less likely to suffer from severe complications related to the virus, the pandemic has impacted that population of people dramatically.
It’s changed the way students learn and socialize.
“Felt really on edge," Fares said.
Fares was worried about getting sick.
“Really unpredictable and for a while, I felt really paranoid," she said.
Now she feels relief. One dose down, one to go.
Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is available to people under 18.
“I feel safer," Fares said.
This teen’s world revolves around sports, school, friends and family.
“I love cooking," she said.
And she can’t wait to safely reunite with loved ones. Fares wants other young people to hear this message:
“Get the vaccine. Please, just do it,” Fares said.
Medical professionals are encouraging everyone eligible to get vaccinated.
Data from Pfizer supports children as young as 16 tolerate the vaccine the same as older adults.
Pediatricians say it’s important for everyone to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Children under the age of 18 make up more than 20% of the population in the United States.
“There are still children who have bad outcomes from this disease. We are seeing children admitted to our children's hospitals with primary COVID infections. We are seeing children admitted with the MIS-C or the Multisystem inflammatory syndrome of childhood and those children will often end up in the ICU. And we've seen deaths from COVID in children as well. The fact that children, by and large, do well with a COVID infection is partially reassuring, but it's not the entire story. So we do really strongly recommend that children get vaccinated," Dr. Kimberly Giuliano, a pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic said.
Recently released preliminary data from Pfizer indicates the vaccine is also safe and effective in children as young as 12.