It was a rainy morning at Cork City Hall on Sunday but 15-year-old Grace Madden, from Ballygarvan, had a big smile on her face as she contemplated the return of “a bit of normality” having received her first vaccination.
The teenager, who is going into her Junior Certificate year at Regina Mundi School in Douglas, said getting the vaccine was a huge relief for her particularly as the return to school draws near.
“It feels good because now I am protected against it [Covid] and I won’t feel as nervous going into school. Lockdown involved doing a lot of [school] work on your own and you didn’t really see any of your friends. I found Zoom quite hard because you had to get up and go to class on it and then get off and not see your friends again.”
Her mother, Jane, admitted she was conscious of how much teenagers like her daughter had missed out on since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
“I think they have lost a lot socially. They have lost a year-and-a-half and haven’t had the normal things and the normal progression. We even found with my parents that we were going outside. We have started to go into my parents recently because my other girls were vaccinated. That has been tough.”
Marian Conway from Coachford, Co Cork, who was at the vaccination centre with her 15-year-old daughter, Robyn, feels the pandemic has affected teenagers in a big way.
“I don’t even think they can sing indoors [in school]. Robyn got the beginning of first year [before Covid hit]. I feel sorry for the young ones who are in sixth class going into first year. They are having a totally different experience.
“There are people that [Robyn] would be friendly with but they can’t mix. If this helps with them returning to normal it would be great.”
Ultan Keane (12) from Crookstown, also in Cork, is going into first year in De La Salle in Macroom later this month. His father, Robert, said Ultan really missed his sporting activities during lockdown.
“It has been hard enough. When you have a lot of the sports and the scouts disrupted; and you are going from very active to nothing, to restrictions easing and then it is back to lockdown. We live in the countryside. There was a plus and a minus in that. The plus was that he wasn’t out mixing in an estate. But all he could do was go out in the back garden or go on the iPad or Xbox. Everyone is hoping for some normality now.”
Some 30,000 vaccines were given to children aged 12 to 15 years old since vaccinations commenced on Friday, said Health Service Executive boss Paul Reid at lunchtime on Sunday.
The portal for registering this age group opened last week, with about 90,000 – or a third of the eligible population – having registered so far.
About 8,000-10,000 people were registered on the portal every day.