Can teenagers working in essential jobs qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine? Yes, but here's why some are being turned away

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Wake County mother is keeping her son home from his after-school job after he was turned down from getting a COVID-19 vaccine twice.

The Raleigh woman, who did not want to be identified, said she and her 16-year-old son drove to a Walgreens in Dunn Monday after confirming his appointment online.

"We made the appointment, entered all the information, including his birthdate," the mother said. "I even called the pharmacy just to verify - just wanted to make sure- 'Is it ok? He's 16. Can he still get the vaccination? ' And they were like, 'Yes.'"

Still, she said when they arrived at the Walgreens, staff told her he had to be 18 years old to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

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Last week, she was with him at a Cape Fear Valley Health clinic where she said he was turned down, staff telling them he had to be 18 to get a shot of the Pfizer vaccine.

The Raleigh mother said her son is considered a frontline essential worker since he works in-person with children as a camp counselor.

Still, in both instances, she said staff at the facilities didn't question his eligibility, only his age.

"Because we are running multiple vaccine sites, some of which use the Pfizer vaccine and some of which use the Moderna vaccine, Cape Fear Valley Health has chosen to limit vaccines to those 18 and older in order to reduce confusion, said Christopher Tart, Vice President of Professional Services at Cape Fear Valley Health. "Moderna's vaccine is approved for those 18 and older, and the Pfizer vaccine is the only one currently approved for 16 and older, but it is not available at all of our sites. We will make sure we clarify this on our website for future patients."

ABC11 checked with Walgreens about their vaccination policies, but has not yet heard back.

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According to NCDHHS, essential workers, as young as 16, can be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, but they must work in-person in one of the eight essential sectors that align with federal guidance.

Essential workers, as young as 16, can be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, but they must work in-person in one of the eight essential sectors that align with federal guidance.



Eligible essential workers can qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine in NC if they work in one of the eight essential sector



For now, the mother said her son, who is considered high-risk, will wait until Group 4 to sign up again, missing out for now on the money he would earn to put toward college or a car.

But she's concerned for families who might rely on their teenager's income, who might also be missing out on that much needed money while their child is forced to stay home.

"For us, it's an inconvenience, it's hard, but we're pretty privileged," she said. "But I worry about people who don't have our privilege."

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