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LA MESA, Calif. — Many younger San Diegans headed to La Mesa Thursday to get their COVID-19 vaccines, a possibility for the first time as nearly all eligibility restrictions lifted.

Californians aged 16 and older became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting April 15th. This expansion of eligibility comes as the state reaches major milestones in its vaccine rollout: nearly half of all residents in the 16 and older population have already received at least one dose, including 73.9 percent of seniors aged 65 and older.

Sixteen-year-old Isabella Hernandez got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine for several reasons. Her first reason reflects that typical teen thought process. “I get to get out of school earlier so that’s nice,” she said, laughing.

However, she also saw the bigger picture and said she was getting the vaccine to protect herself and others. “It’s not only just for yourself, but it’s also for the community and just for anyone around you; it’s really going to help us progress forward,” Hernandez told FOX 5.

In order for minors to get a vaccine at any Sharp HealthCare site, a parent must be present to sign a consent form. Isabella’s dad, Enrique, stood by and watched as his daughter got hers.

“Its great. It makes us, as parents, feel safe for our kids, for ourselves, for grandparents and for friends, so the sooner we get everybody vaccinated the sooner we’ll get back to normal,” he said.

Sammy Castillo, 17, said she was relieved to get her vaccine and encouraged other teens to do the same.

“I would encourage other teens to get it because we can all start seeing our loved ones in a more normal fashion and hopefully return to school in the fall. Also, I feel like I’m doing my part to protect others just as much as myself,” Castillo told FOX 5.

While only two 16-year-olds were scheduled to get their vaccine at the SHARP Grossmont Center site, many waited in line to get shots Thursday.

Kiley Thomas, 27, also described a sense of relief with her shot. “This feels like the light at the end of the tunnel and just the icing on the cake,” she said.

Thi Thuyen Le, 24, said she hopes others will get their dose, just like she did: “I really like wish that (everyone) will get the vaccine quickly and America will be back again.”