Vaccine Voices: Alex ‘had the biggest smile’

For 10-year-old Alex, it has been a very long wait to get his COVID-19 vaccination. Alex has asthma and has already been hospitalized a couple of times with it in his short life. “As soon as he gets either a cold or any kind of virus it goes into his lungs and he requires two different inhalers,” said his mother Kimberly.

Alex with his family in Cannon Beach

Even though everyone else in the family has been fully vaccinated for some time, not much has changed because they are careful about bringing viruses into the home. They still meet others outdoors and live as if nobody is vaccinated to protect Alex.

Every time a family member was vaccinated, the family would breathe a sigh of relief. But Alex – the one who needed it the most – had to wait the longest.

Now, with Alex receiving his first dose against COVID-19, daily life will be simpler when the entire family is fully vaccinated in time for Christmas. When Kimberly told Alex they could have their traditional Christmas dinner this year, unmasked and indoors, Alex “had the biggest smile” and jumped up and down with joy. “His reaction was priceless, and it made me cry,” Kimberly said.

There will be a “lessening of this constant underlying stress of trying to stay healthy and constantly making decisions to keep him safe,”said Kimberly.

Kimberly has followed the guidance of pediatricians, epidemiologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics. She has experienced the worst of COVID-19 when her uncle died in April 2020 before vaccinations were available to him. Kimberly said the decision to vaccinate her children is a “no-brainer.”

She wishes people would not view COVID-19 as an individual decision but one that has an impact on everybody in the community.  Her sister is a registered nurse in an intensive care unit. “Look at my sister who works with COVID-19 patients and works really long hours. It is putting her health on the line to be with people who are largely unvaccinated. It really affects everyone.”

The pandemic has not been all bad for the family. It has provided an opportunity to spend more time in nature than before, going camping and fishing or hiking in the Tillamook Forest. The highlight of the summer for Annabelle, Alex’s sister who wants to be a marine biologist, was seeing harbor porpoises on the ferry to Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, Wash.

Kimberly plans to send both her children back to school in person next semester and to return to her position as a preschool teacher.  Once both children are fully vaccinated, Kimberly’s perspective is that they did everything we could possibly do as parents to protect them. “At that point we will be confident in telling Alex, ‘You are safe to go back to school,’” said Kimberly.