Why I Will Get the Coronavirus Vaccine as Soon as It’s Available
There isn't one aspect of our lives a vaccine wouldn't help.
The smell of fresh rain on grass in the summer—is there any scent more wonderful? Tenderly, I watched my 16-year-old daughter Caroline take it in. She looked so happy and so sad at the same time. Her delicate face pressed against the window screen, she quietly said the thing she missed the most was fresh air. See, Caroline and I have been completely quarantined in a dreary basement apartment since the coronavirus pandemic started, in March. She hasn’t been outside, not even in the yard, for eight months. We rarely even open the windows. As she gulped in deep breaths of the air, I couldn’t stop the tears. I’d tried to hold them back for months but I cried for a long time after that. (Here’s how to talk to kids about the coronavirus without scaring them.)
My daughter and I are both immunocompromised
I have rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, and take a medication that works by shutting down my overactive immune system so the disease doesn’t further damage my body. This puts me at a high risk of getting any type of sickness. But if it was just my health, I wouldn’t be so worried. The real issue is Caroline’s health. She was born with lung complications due to my appendix rupturing when I was pregnant with her, leading to lifelong breathing difficulties. She also was born with a rare genetic fever disorder. I can’t count the number of sleepless nights I spent on her bedroom floor praying for her to take another breath. On top of that, she has uncontrolled asthma and some pretty major ear, nose, and throat things that will require surgery to fix.
That’s not all. The biggest problem is that she has an as-of-yet undiagnosed mystery medical condition. Her immunologist thinks it is lupus and mast cell activation syndrome but we have to rule out some other things first. Several years ago she got mononucleosis and never fully recovered and it’s been one thing after another ever since.
All of this means that when she gets sick, she gets unbelievably sick, even from the type of cold viruses that give most kids just the sniffles. Minor things that most people would recover from in 24 hours put her in the hospital. Even on her good days, she is exhausted all the time. Zero energy. It’s so painful to watch my once incredibly happy and active kid be too worn out to even open Christmas presents.
COVID-19 made us sacrifice nearly everything
When the pandemic started and it became clear that the virus often targets the respiratory system, my husband and I knew we would have to take extra precautions to protect her. So we, along with Caroline’s medical team, made the incredibly difficult decision to have Caroline and I go into total isolation. My husband travels a lot for work and it was just too big of a risk to have my daughter around anyone who was out and about so she and I moved into an apartment together. (They’re not the only ones who’ve had to give up something major—check out how a stranger saved this couple’s wedding during quarantine.)
When I say we haven’t left our home in over seven months, I mean we haven’t left our home. We’ve had to make immense sacrifices. For instance, we place grocery orders online and my husband picks them up and leaves it in the garage for us, where we have to let it sit for two weeks to make sure any germs are gone before we can bring it inside. Obviously, our diets have had to change drastically; we cannot eat fresh fruits or vegetables or anything perishable. We have to always plan weeks or months ahead. We have very specific toiletries we use due to allergies and they are impossible to get hold of. We order medications in three-month quantities because they have to sit in quarantine too and we can’t risk running out. We have had a few close calls as some medications are in high demand and short supply due to the pandemic.
My daughter’s also missing out on all the normal teen stuff, like dating, football games, and getting her driver’s license. She has her learner’s permit, but she was nervous to practice driving because of how risky it would be if we got pulled over or had our car break down. We actually called dispatch for every municipality where we live to see if police officers would be wearing masks. We have a sign we leave in our car explaining our situation and asking the officers to please wear a mask and stand back just in case. But we haven’t used it yet because the thought of needing it causes too much anxiety. She finally decided to just let driving go for now. It was our only escape, but it’s also too much.
Then there’s everything related to simply living. The amount of cleaning and hand washing we do around here, on top of all our other precautions, is overwhelming. We’d love to find some safe way to enjoy the outdoors but right now we’re limited to our backyard—as long as none of the neighbors are outside and we wear our masks. (Still in quarantine? Here are 27 things you should do to take care of yourself.)
It’s also very lonely; my daughter hasn’t seen her dad, her friends, or anyone but me for months. We have missed Easter, spring break, vacations, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and more. It is mentally exhausting trying to simply survive and stay safe and there’s no end in sight for us. (Read this sweet story of how one woman celebrated Mother’s Day in quarantine.)
That is, until we get a COVID-19 vaccine
Getting a vaccine would change absolutely everything for us. We could resume some semblance of our old lives. She could go to doctors’ appointments again, instead of relying on telehealth. She could have a birthday party with her friends. We could live together as a family again! A vaccine would be life-saving in every aspect of our lives. So you better believe that the minute one is released, we will be the first people in line to be immunized.
I don’t say that lightly. When my daughter was younger I did have some hesitancy about vaccines. I’d heard a lot of scary things about childhood vaccination and didn’t know what or who to believe. So I decided to find out for myself, researching everything I could find and even talking with a research microbiologist. I ultimately decided that vaccines are indeed life-saving miracles of modern medicine.
I have very strong feelings about vaccines and all the good they do, but if I am being honest I am still concerned about the COVID vaccines in development. Vaccines are tested extensively over years and years and years for safety but this one is being rushed, understandably. I’m worried but unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of waiting to see how it goes because the alternative is frankly far scarier for us. (Her fears aren’t unfounded; here’s what can happen you don’t follow social distancing guidelines.)
Joining a vaccine trial
Before we get the vaccine I will be thoroughly reviewing the studies. I want the vaccine, but I also want to be safe. I’m not going to choose a manufacturer that cut corners in the race to be first or one who is more concerned about the money-making potential. I’m not blindly trusting any manufacturer or government regulatory agencies. I’m choosing one who is trying to save lives first and there are a couple of vaccines currently being tested that I feel really good about—so good that I’ve even written the companies and asked to be a part of their vaccine trials.
In my quest to save my child (I know that sounds dramatic but honestly that’s where we are right now) I have sought out and researched every company that was trying to create a COVID vaccine. I wrote to each one of them. I have begged them to please let us take part in phase two trials. (How long will we have to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine?)
We are just so desperate
I know how all this sounds. Almost everyone thinks we are being ridiculous. I have gotten so many hateful and hurtful messages from friends and acquaintances and even strangers on social media. But this plan was devised with our healthcare team. Yet even though I am in agreement that it’s for the best, it still hurts. I honestly feel like we have missed an entire year. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine would allow her, us, to return to school, church, friends, family—life. We are praying so hard for a safe and effective vaccine to become available soon. Because I can’t bear the thought of having to watch Caroline, face pressed against the window, watching her life pass her by.
For more on this developing situation, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.