Fort Irwin begins COVID-19 vaccinations for 12-15-year-olds

Fort Irwin began COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible beneficiaries 12-15 years old May 15 following approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense.

Indrie Friday, 13, and her brother, Andrew, 12, were the first in their age group on Fort Irwin to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Andrew Friday, 12, son of Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Friday, an observer, coach and trainer with Cobra Team, Operations Group, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine May 15 at the Dr. Mary E. Walker Center on Fort Irwin, Calif. Andrew was the second child on Fort Irwin in the 12-15 year-old age group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanding the emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to include children and teens ages 12 and over. (U.S. Army photo by Kimberly Hackbarth/ Weed ACH Public Affairs)
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Their father, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Friday, an observer, coach and trainer with Cobra Team, Operations Group, brought them to get vaccinated as he assisted Weed Army Community Hospital staff with vaccinating adults.

For Friday, the decision to vaccinate his children was not made lightly.

“Through this entire pandemic I’ve been following updates, following the research, making sure I understood what mRNA was and how that process worked, how it was developed, the safety and the risks that kind of go together with both, and my children have stayed in the same process,” he said. “They’ve been interested in it.”

Friday acknowledged that the decision to vaccinate children 12 and older is a personal choice and one that made the most sense for his family.

“We want to do what’s right, at least for us, to stay healthy and stay safe, and I’ve done everything else in their lives to give them the right inoculations to stay safe, the right shots for the right situation that gives them a better chance of staying healthy, so why wouldn’t I do this too?” he said.

Karyn Brunson, spouse of Col. LaHavie Brunson, the 916th Sustainment Brigade commander, took her sons Alexander, 14, and Nicholas, 13, to receive their COVID-19 vaccines May 17 during a vaccine event at the Fort Irwin commissary.

Alexander Brunson, 14, son of Col. LaHavie Brunson, the 916th Sustainment Brigade commander, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine May 16 at the commissary on Fort Irwin, Calif. Weed Army Community Hospital held weekend vaccination events at the Fort Irwin post exchange, commissary and the Dr. Mary E. Walker Center following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanding the emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to include children and teens ages 12 and over. (Courtesy photo/ Weed ACH)

According to Brunson, she and her family discussed it with the children’s health care provider, did research, and discussed it with their 13 and 14-year-old sons.

“We felt the benefits of being protected against COVID were far too important to ignore, especially since it is the only path back to normal,” she said. “I feel that getting as many people vaccinated is a step in the right direction toward safely getting back to normal.”

The more people who are vaccinated, the safer it is for the entire community, she said.

“Especially being such a small and remote environment, being able to get services and activities back that were available pre-COVID is paramount,” Brunson explained. “We felt that being vaccinated should help with being able to safely participate in school activities, sports, and to engender a sense of comfort amongst kids and their families.”

In both the Friday and Brunson families, the parents set the example by getting vaccinated first.

Friday received the COVID-19 vaccine in the first wave of Fort Irwin personnel in December 2020.

“Not only did I want it at that time, but I felt it was the right thing to do with rotational units coming through here,” Friday said. “Ultimately, one of my primary responsibilities out in the desert is safety of the unit, so if I’m putting them at risk by possibly exposing them to COVID, I’m not doing my job.”

Nicholas Brunson, 13, son of Col. LaHavie Brunson, the 916th Sustainment Brigade commander, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine May 16 at the commissary on Fort Irwin, Calif. Weed Army Community Hospital held weekend vaccination events at the Fort Irwin post exchange, commissary and the Dr. Mary E. Walker Center following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanding the emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to include children and teens ages 12 and over. (Courtesy photo/ Weed ACH)

Both Brunson and her husband previously received the COVID-19 vaccine and felt it was important for their children to be protected as well, she said.

“We were glad that as teenagers, they could now be vaccinated and share the same level of comfort as we do,” Brunson said. “It should allow them to feel safer, especially as we embark on summer vacations and block leave.”

Friday also said part of returning to pre-COVID normalcy is the ability for families to travel.

“This gets us able to take our children wherever we want to go and give them a life that has been on hold for almost two years now,” he said. “Get out and get vaccinated now – do your part.”

For more information on Weed Army Community Hospital’s COVID-19 efforts, visit https://weed-irwin.tricare.mil/.

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