But parents are now navigating an awkward moment in which some children are vaccinated and many others, who are under the age of 12, are not. For the most part, some parents, including Ms. Tu, restrict their children to indoor playdates with vaccinated friends.
After Zoe took the photo, her mom posted to Instagram to mark the moment: “Turning 12 in 2021 means a different kind of celebration,” Ms Tu wrote, featuring syringe and birthday cake emojis.
Zoe’s vaccination was also a milestone for her parents. “On her birthday, we are one step closer to a safer situation because our whole family can be vaccinated,” Ms Tu added. “It’s a new chapter for us.”
For some young people, vaccination adds to a birthday. Many spent the past year isolated from friends, craving normalcy and limiting their friendships mainly to phones and computers.
Several studies have shown deterioration in mental health, including bouts of anxiety and depression, among teens during the pandemic. Getting a Covid vaccine offers some teens a glimmer of promise for more socializing.
Some students didn’t want needles to ruin their actual birthdays. Sebastian Holst, 12, of Brooklyn, was relieved that his parents had scheduled his vaccine appointment for a few days after his birthday in May. That way, he could throw a Zoom birthday party with friends, take a walk with his mom, and enjoy his dad’s tacos without worrying about potential side effects.
“Getting vaccinations doesn’t feel great, but I know I have to, so I’m sucking it up,” he said.
When he went to the Javits Center in Manhattan for his shot later that week, he had a burst of excitement as he envisioned a new school year that might be better than last year. Sebastian’s school last year offered a mix of face-to-face and distance learning, and on the days he was away, he missed bumping into friends in the hallways. And remote lessons via Zoom eliminated the separation between home and school, he said.