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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Starting Friday, any Shelby County resident age 16 or older can get the COVID-19 vaccine. That means quite a few high school students can finally get the shot.

That includes several of Bill Grace’s grandchildren. He says they’re all signing up.

“Good. Yeah. Safe,” Grace said.

Dr. Sandy Arnold is a pediatric infectious disease expert with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. She says it’s crucial that as many eligible teens get vaccinated as possible, because while government statistics show teenagers are unlikely to die from COVID, they can still spread the virus to others who are more vulnerable. So, she’s encouraging her 17-year-old daughter to get it.

Why can teens aged 16, 17 get the Pfizer vaccine but not Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?

Arnold believes small gatherings like modest graduation parties are doable this year, particularly if everyone attending has been vaccinated, but she doesn’t think events like prom are a good idea. 

“In a school you tell families to go out and vaccinate their 16, 17 and 18 year olds. Some of them are not going to,” Arnold said, “Those people are still going to be at risk and so, it’s not time to just say yeah, let’s have prom.”

Like many adults in Memphis, some teenagers are afraid of getting the vaccine. Tonya Sevion-Cole’s 18-year-old daughter is one of them, but she is trying to change her daughter’s mind.

“I don’t want her to do that out of fear,” Sevion-Cole said, “Not take it when it could potentially be something that saves her life, my life or somebody else’s.”

Like anyone who gets the vaccine, Arnold says young people may get mild symptoms, but she believes it’s well worth it.

“They don’t make you feel great, but they’re gone within one to two days, and then you’re immune to this virus,” she said.

Clinical trials are underway for children younger than 16. 

We asked Shelby County Schools officials if they had any comment on students getting vaccinated, but as of this writing we have not heard back.