Visits with grandparents. Trips to the ocean. Worry-free get-togethers with family and friends. Those are just a few of the things Lisa, her husband, Jason, and their two boys have missed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But vacations and spending time with their loved ones can finally return to the family’s calendar once Lisa can get the last member of her family a COVID-19 vaccine — her 8-year-old son Sam. After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for kids ages 5-11, Lisa planned to get Sam scheduled for his vaccine “immediately.”
Keeping Sam safe
Sam is a survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He finished treatment at Children’s Minnesota in January 2019. Because he battled ALL and went through treatment, Sam was more likely to get seriously sick if he got COVID. Adding extra worry for the family was the fact that Jason only has one lung after having the other removed because of a tumor. To keep everybody safe, the family has had to keep their social interactions very limited.
“We were isolated from grandparents who are big part of our lives, especially during Sam’s treatment. That was definitely hard on the kids,” remembered Lisa.
Like other kids, Sam and his brother were in distance learning for much of the pandemic – away from friends and other classmates.
Waiting for Sam’s turn
Lisa and Jason received the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it was available. Their 12-year-old son, Silas, was vaccinated once the 12- to 15-year-old age group was eligible. The family has anxiously waited for Sam’s turn once the FDA and CDC both authorized the shot for kids ages 5-11.
“It’s a lot about freedom and not worrying if it’s safe to be with friends and family again that are outside our pod of people,” said Lisa.
One thing the family is really looking forward to is vacationing by the ocean. The last trip was Sam’s Make-A-Wish trip to Florida after he finished treatment for ALL. “We’ve always meant to get back and haven’t been able to do it yet.”
The COVID vaccination can come with some temporary side effects, like arm soreness, fatigue and headache. Side effects usually occur 1-2 days after the vaccination and are considered a sign that a child’s immune system is working. Lisa accepts that Sam may experience some mild-to-moderate side effects, but that’s not causing her to hesitate.
“Once you see your child go through chemotherapy and have that save his life, a vaccine is really nothing to worry about too much,” said Lisa.
The family plans to get Sam vaccinated as soon as possible. They have been waiting a long time to get back to the things they enjoy. When Sam was in treatment, Lisa says they couldn’t really do much since his immune system was weakened and he was more susceptible to getting seriously sick. Then the pandemic started.
“We just want to see all of our family and friends without having to worry about how safe it is to see them. The COVID vaccine and getting Sam vaccinated takes away most of that worry.”