long line of children and their guardians on sidewalk outside mission wellness pharmacy
Children and their guardians line up outside of Mission Wellness Pharmacy on Nov. 4, 2021, to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine recently approved for 5 to 11 year olds. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use among children as young as 5 last week, and local vaccine sites, clinics, and pharmacies have mustered to meet the demand.

Over the lunch hour Thursday, the line outside Mission Wellness Pharmacy (2424 Mission St.) was down to a trickle. Things picked up after school, and the pharmacy had given almost 100 pediatric doses by 5 p.m.

“There’s a big push now with the kids,” said Daniel, an employee triaging walk-ins and pre-registered vaccine seekers outside the pharmacy’s front door. “Boosters are going on steadily, too.”

They set up chairs outside for people to complete their 15 minute waiting periods on the sidewalk, since their indoor waiting space can’t accommodate more than ten people at a time under covid precautions.

Avery Manuel, 8, spent her waiting time outside with her mom. “It kind of hurt,” she said about the shot, “but it felt better later.”

Her mom said that Avery was so excited when they got the appointment, she screamed. “I’ve been waiting a long time,” said Avery.

two children showing off their vaccine arms with their mom
Kaiden Papp (left), 10, and Malin Papp (right), 6, pose with their mom to show off their Covid-19 “vaccine arm” and vaccine cards after receiving the shot at Mission Wellness Pharmacy on Nov. 4, 2021. Photo by Anlan Cheney (edited for privacy).

Kaiden Papp, 10, and their sibling Malin, 6, were also eager to get their vaccines. “I was excited but also a little nervous,” said Kaiden, explaining they thought it might hurt.

“It hurt a little bit,” said Malin. For Kaiden: “I barely even noticed it.”

“I feel safer already,” Kaiden added. “I’m fascinated by the way that vaccines work. Like they inject a small amount of pathogen so your body can learn about them and destroy them the next time they invade.” 

Kaiden was referring to how messenger RNA vaccines use material from the virus to stimulate an immune response, and he said he’ll encourage his friends at school to get the vaccine, too. 

Maria Lopez, a pharmacist and clinical services and residency program director at Mission Wellness Pharmacy, was posting informational fliers on the storefront yesterday when a woman tapped her on the shoulder, grinning ear to ear.

“I’m elated,” said the woman, a long-time customer whose young child had just been vaccinated against covid. “This is a big effing deal,” she said, enveloping Lopez in a hug. 

Lopez said the displays of gratitude from parents are common; some even cry. She said the pharmacy is “gearing up” for a weekday capacity of 250 vaccines a day, and her team will give more at school sites on Saturdays. 

They’ve expanded their pediatric clinic hours until 7 p.m [updated Nov. 9]. 

She emphasized that the demand for the pediatric dose is really high, and the pharmacy is doing their best to prioritize that age group. “This will be a child-focused site,” she wrote in an email, noting the staff is experienced with pediatric populations and speaks Spanish.

The Covid-19 vaccine is free. Make your or your child’s appointment at Mission Wellness Pharmacy online. For citywide vaccination sites and appointments, visit https://sf.gov/vaccine-sites.

For eligibility information, go here.

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"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

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