As parents prepare for back to school, it's more than just school supplies they'll need this year. With most children still unvaccinated, parents now have a choice: should their kids get a shot?
"I wont be vaccinating him," said Krystin Santana, a parent from Desert Hot Springs.
"I believe to end this, we all have to do vaccination," said Gita Asgeri, a parent and physician from Rancho Mirage.
"I just don't know if ill let them have it this young," said Hannah from Rancho Mirage.
Some have not yet made up their minds, and even the kids have their own ideas.
"If anyone takes the vaccine, they have to just keep in mind that they’re doing a good thing for the community," said Artin Asgeri, age 13 from Rancho Mirage.
I feel like if you put all that stuff in your body for no reason, what's the point," said Brooks, age 9.
So far, kids 12 years old are the youngest to be approved for vaccination. Asgeri got his Pfizer shots as soon as he was eligible. "I could talk to people before but now I can get closer contact," he said. "I can actually make new friends, much better to talk without masks, and it's much better to know that I'm staying healthy."
His 8-year-old sister Amitis is looking forward to her turn for immunity so she can shed her face covering. "I still have to wear a mask for extra protection but yeah, I can go out comfortable without wearing a mask," she said.
Santana said it defies her religion to vaccinate her son, and said kids spreading illnesses at schools is already a given. "It's against our belief to put foreign objects into our bodies," she said. "It's just a common thing. Kids get sick when they go to school. Everybody carries different germs, so it's bound to happen."
News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia sat down with Dr. Erica Pan, the California state epidemiologist, to get the facts on parents' concerns.
Monique Green from Riverside has doubts because the vaccine was developed so quickly, a process she worries could have been rushed. "Once it's out more, then I won't have a problem getting it but I just feel like it's too soon," Green said.
"They were developed quickly," Dr. Pan said. "But based on decades of technology and technology that's been happening in vaccine development. And what really got expedited was a lot of the manufacturing, some of the red tape, and people collaborating together for the technology."
Hannah has three kids under 5 years old. She didn't want to use her last name. She herself is vaccinated, but when it comes to her children, she's still on the fence.
"They’ve had a whole bunch of vaccines through the past 5 years," Hannah said. "I just wouldn't mind having a little bit of a break before we put something else in them."
"As a parent, these are safe and effective vaccines," Dr. Pan said. "The benefits absolutely outweigh any potential risks. And the more people we get vaccinated, including kids, the closer we will return to beyond this pandemic."
Dr. Pan said about 15 percent of our population is kids under 12, and with the troubling Delta variant now quickly on the rise, those unvaccinated pockets remain most vulnerable. Still, she said, school can be held in-person safely, even with lots of Covid-19 transmission in the community.
"You can actually do a lot of things to protect kids and staff in schools," Dr. Pan said."Everything from masking, good ventilation, testing programs – all of those things are really shown us you can be in school safely."
Some parents just hope that whatever their decision is, people will respect it.
"Everybody has their own belief," Santana said. "If they choose to do it, choose not to do it, that's totally up to them."
Others said this is about respecting the greater good together. "It's not only me – it's about us," Gita Asgeri said. "I hope they come to the point they feel comfortable, they do it, and lets finish this."
It's a healthy debate that at the end of the day is about what's best for the kids of the Coachella Valley. And what many of them are looking for is life beyond the pandemic.
"I just want for it to be a normal day again and just to see all my friends without their masks," Brooks said.
An official with the FDA said Thursday vaccines for kids under 12 can be expected mid-winter.