The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in American adolescents age 16 and older on Dec. 11. It was approved in May for use in those 12 to 15.

Since its approval, more than 2.5 million adolescents have received their first vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making up about a quarter of all new vaccinations — a percentage experts hope will continue to rise through the rest of this year and help us reach the country’s 70 percent vaccination goal.

But why is it important for adolescents to get vaccinated? Well, as everyone grows increasingly tired of the pandemic and its restrictions, teens getting vaccinated can have significant benefits for the rest of the country and returning to normalcy. They can reduce infections in their community and perhaps encourage older family members to get vaccinated.

But as beneficial as the vaccine is, there is still some concern about the vaccine itself and its side effects, which is completely understandable given how new this vaccine is.

I received my first dose of the vaccine May 22, and let me tell you I was terrified even though I had no reason to be. So let me explain the process.

In order to receive the first dose, recipients must schedule an appointment or go to a walk-in vaccine clinic; information for both can be found online. Minors are required to bring a completed parental consent form or have a parent or guardian present to fill out the form at the vaccination site.

At the vaccination site, you will be issued a vaccine card. As for the vaccine itself, it most likely will be administered by trained military personnel, and the process will be over within less than 5 minutes. The actual needle is comparable to that of a flu shot and feels like poke. For me, the most uncomfortable part of the entire experience was a cold, almost burning, sensation that spread through my arm, leaving it feeling numb or heavy — again, similar to receiving a flu shot.

After you receive your vaccine, you are asked to wait in a waiting area for 15 minutes, to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction, before you are allowed to leave.

Side effects of the vaccine were actually very minimal for me. I felt tired, dizzy and even a bit nauseous, but I found that a sugary drink, such as Sprite, helped alleviate those sensations, and a long nap made me less tired.

Two weeks later, you receive your second dose of the vaccine, which likely will go just like the first.

There is no reason, you see, to be skeptical about the vaccine. It is a very quick process that is helping save many lives and, in my opinion, is helping us get back to the life we used to know.

Valeria Ramirez will be a junior at Santa Fe High School. Contact her at

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