Who knew a bunch of preteen boys and girls would wake up early on a Saturday or Sunday excited to go get a shot?
This past weekend, nearly 1,200 of them did, and their families brought them to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital to get their first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The hospital administered another 850 doses this week.
Among Saturday’s recipients were half a dozen 12-year-old boys on the La Cañada Baseball and Softball Association’s Cooperstown Tournament team. The timing was right on the money: three weeks later, they’ll get their second doses and two weeks after that, they’ll be fully inoculated.
Just in time to travel to Cooperstown, New York.
“Other than sore arms, everybody was fine,” said coach Matt Regan. It’s exciting “just knowing that we can show up and it’s one less thing we have to worry about.”
Rules require the baseball players to regularly take the uncomfortable coronavirus tests ahead of games and tournaments, usually 72 hours ahead of time; a positive test will take them out of the game. Now, those boys who have started their vaccines can travel all the way to New York with peace of mind.
“Now I won’t have to get COVID tests when I go out,” said Chase Regan, the coach’s son, who attends Palm Crest Elementary School. “I’ve already had to do a few of those. They’re not the best.”
The team was generally relieved that it could form and play baseball this spring, especially after a winter surge in coronavirus infections pushed Los Angeles County to the brink. Still, it’s not quite the same. Regan, a second baseman and sometime shortstop and pitcher, said wearing masks and needing to maintain spacing between players takes away from the usual atmosphere.
Trevor Rivas, a shortstop who attends Paradise Canyon Elementary School, said he agreed.
“Masks have been really hard,” he said. “It’s hard to run with them and to yell. I don’t get the same socialization at practices as I like.”
Rivas’ mother, Julie, said that it’s been difficult to watch sports sporadically be on or off throughout the later stages of the pandemic and that her family has done its best to avoid potential exposures so that her son can keep playing.
“It’s been so hard, so hard to keep them away from their friends,” she said.
Matt Regan said forming the team at all proved to be a challenge, but one worth overcoming for his players.
“And then just finding games was a challenge,” he added. “It’s certainly starting to get easier. A lot of the tournaments we’d normally have signed up for aren’t happening. We’re having to find new ones.”
There may be a silver lining to that. At least Milo Lin, an outfielder and pitcher from PCY, seemed to find one.
“There’s not as many tournaments,” he observed about the season so far. “It’s more single scrimmage games, so it’s not as much pressure.”
Parents, who have been eligible for their vaccines since April or earlier, were largely relieved at the opportunity for their children. Pfizer had been approved for ages 16 and older earlier this year, and federal officials gave the green light last week for kids 12 and older to get their shots.
Depending on vaccination numbers, this opportunity may make decisions for next school year easier for school districts and parents. Some districts are already anticipating a full return to in-person instruction this fall.
“It’s a great relief knowing they can be safe and get back to the social life they had,” said Lin’s mother, Juowei Lee. “It’s such an important stage for them and to be without it is missing something big.”
Julie Rivas said they planned to make a big family trip out of the journey to Cooperstown, home of the storied National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“We’re going to go a few days early and go to Niagara Falls,” she said. “We’ll go to the Hall of Fame and bring the grandparents with us.”
Kristi Cohen, director of human resources at USC-VHH, said Keck Medicine of USC mobilized quickly to bring in children for vaccines when the eligibility opened up last week. The hospital boasts a robust nursing staff, she said — bolstered by Glendale Community College nursing students logging pediatric hours — and had already hosted a number of local school districts’ teachers for their own doses.
In fact, it’s what helped get so many kids in so far.
“Every school that we know of that Keck [had worked with] sent links out to get all of their students here,” Cohen explained, “so that’s why we had such a large turnout. They were just thrilled to be here.”
Regan, the coach, said he couldn’t have asked for a better experience for his team.
“We’re very grateful for them and the timing could not have been better,” he said of USC-VHH. “Our experience with them was excellent. Every one of my parents whose kids got a shot mentioned that.”