Fourteen-year-old Kami Sheedy wasted no time spreading the word that she had just received her first COVID-19 vaccine, posting proof of her jab to Instagram from the clinic parking lot.
“I’ve been showing it off,” she said, referring to her “I Got The Vaccine” sticker. Kami, daughter of Dr. Michael Sheedy, a family physician with Memorial Physician Services-Chatham, received her vaccine Monday along with about 10 other children of Memorial Health System physicians and nurses.
The health care providers said they hoped expressing their confidence in the vaccine as both parents and professionals would encourage other families to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the emergency use authorization of the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children 12 to 15 years old. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has expressed support for vaccinating children against COVID-19.
Memorial Health System began offering vaccine to individuals 12 and older at its drive-thru clinic in Springfield on May 13, one day after the CDC’s announcement.
“I’m relieved, I’m excited, I’m proud,” Sheedy said. “Getting vaccinated is not only for the sake of my daughter’s health, it’s also for our whole family’s health and for the health of the community.”
“It’s an epic day,” said Dr. Anna Richie, clinical director of Memorial Physician Services ExpressCare, whose daughter, Eva, 14, received her first vaccine. “Knowing that everyone in my family is now on the road to being fully vaccinated is a great feeling. It’s emotional. I’m filled with a lot of hope.”
Several parents – all of whom have served on the front lines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – became teary-eyed as they spoke.
“We live in a small community and at the beginning of [the pandemic] there were a lot of ‘non-believers,’” said Blair Patterson, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at Memorial Medical Center who lives in Auburn. “There were people saying no one is actually getting sick, and there were a lot of rumors. Then we had several people in our community who ended up on the ventilator in the ICU and it hit home.”
Richie said she understands some parents’ concerns, noting that misinformation is rampant on social media sites. “Parents have reached out to me, and I’ve noticed their questions tend to confirm what they already know: Vaccinating your child is a wise decision and a safe decision,” she said. “They just need that extra security, and I’m happy to supply it.”
For the teens who received vaccine on Monday, it’s been a year of missed school, sports and visits with friends and family. Even so, they said, some teens feel vaccine hesitancy.
“There are kids who think I’m going to get vaccinated and become a crazy person or something because they’ve read things on the internet or heard rumors that the vaccine is not safe,” said Colton Patterson, 12, a sixth-grader at Auburn Junior High School.
Choosing to receive the vaccine serves a greater good, said Colton, who hopes his actions will speak louder than any social media meme. “When I go back to school after getting vaccinated and the other kids see I’m fine, maybe then they’ll believe the vaccine is safe,” he said. “Maybe they’ll see me and see nothing is wrong and they’ll go to their parents and tell them, ‘There’s this kid in my class who got the vaccine and it’s safe.’”
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available to individuals 12 and older at Memorial Medical Center’s South Sixth Drive-Thru Lab, 2950 S. Sixth St., Springfield. To schedule an appointment, visit vaccination.mhsil.com.
A parent or guardian must be available in person or by phone to provide consent. Children do not need to be current patients of Memorial Physician Services or Memorial Health System affiliates to receive the vaccine. Appointments may be scheduled regardless of where the child lives.