Pandemic Parenting

Close up of a young, masked girl holding her shoulder

“It Is Great Peace Of Mind:” I Got My 11-Year-Old Child The Covid Vaccine

“We discussed it with our ​​pediatrician and they were fully on board.”

by Anonymous, as told to Kaitlin Menza

I was pregnant when the swine flu epidemic happened 11 years ago, and that’s the first time I remember ever chomping at the bit for a vaccine. I changed so much of my life to avoid that virus, since it was so dangerous for pregnant women. When the vaccine came out, I remember I was in the shower and my husband got the call that it was available at my obstetrician’s office. He came running into the bathroom and said, “The vaccine is here!” and I put on my pants while I was still wet, and drove like a maniac to the doctor’s office. “Put it in my arm!”

I think my view on vaccines can best be described as: If you’re offered them, you get them.

Now, I have two daughters: an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old. Where to start on what the last year of our lives has been like? Their school district is one that shut down completely for one year. My husband and I are lucky enough to have jobs where we can work from home, but we’re both full-time, but we don't have any type of help, no parents who live nearby or family members who can help with child care. It was a constant feeling of being underwater, all of the time. I wasn’t getting my job done, my children were not learning.

In the spring, my older daughter’s school went hybrid, and she was thrilled to go back. She’s such a friendly kid, with an exceptionally good head on her shoulders — but her math scores did not improve at all for the entire time school was online — and she was so lonely, just adrift.

But that disappointment turned quickly to: ‘Well, how would anyone know she isn’t eligible?’

Once the vaccines were approved, my daughter could pick up on how badly we wanted them. She saw us calling frantically back in the spring, trying to find a CVS with supplies. At one point, my husband heard a rumor there were extra shots available on the other side of the city and he U-turned the car and drove for 20 minutes, only to get there and discover they’d run out. She went with me for my appointment, and saw this long line of people who really wanted it, including me. She was right there watching it all, and she took my photo mid-shot. I didn’t post it or anything — not my thing — but I’m glad I have a souvenir of that moment.

I’m sure witnessing all of this made her excited about getting the vaccine. She really wanted her own shots. How much of this excitement was “this is what grown-ups get” versus “I’m so sick of how my life has changed,” I don’t know. When they started offering it to children 12 and over, it was disappointing that she was so close to that cut-off but not eligible. But that disappointment turned quickly to: “Well, how would anyone know she isn’t eligible?”

By then, we had already gotten our shots at two different places and had both found that very little was required in the way of ID. You could sign your kid up with no verification of age. Getting her vaccinated was really my husband's idea at first. I’m much more of a rule follower than he is, but I had no health concerns about it. She is within the margin of error of the official age cut-off, so I felt confident it was safe for her.

We discussed it with our ​​pediatrician and they were fully on board. We have physicians in our family, and they were all very much on board too. And by this summer, I had no ethical qualms about her getting it. There was plenty to go around in our region, so she wasn’t taking it away from someone who needed it more. To me, the evidence was clear that it’d be much worse for her to get coronavirus than to get the shots. The cost-benefit balance was really clear from a health perspective. The only real concern was like, what if somebody along the way got annoyed with us trying to break the rules?

I have zero concern if anyone knows my kid is vaccinated, but I’m staying anonymous here because I don’t want the clinic or her pediatrician to get in any trouble.

The only moment of any deception came at the appointment. She’d been in that clinic’s health system before, and they were like, “Oh, she was born in 2010,” and we were like, “Hmm, that must be an error.” I don’t like lying, but they didn’t push. Health professionals recognize that every vaccine in an arm is a good thing. The attitude was clearly if you’re here and you want it, fantastic. She got Pfizer, like my husband and I did, and she was a little tired the next day and her arm was sore, but that was it. A very normal reaction.

We haven't been shy about this decision. I have zero concern if anyone knows my kid is vaccinated, but I’m staying anonymous here because I don’t want the clinic or her pediatrician to get in any trouble. We knew friends with kids under the age of 12 who got the shot because they signed up for the trial. If they can get it through the trial, is it really that different? The minute our younger daughter is eligible, she’ll get it, too. (We didn’t try this with our 6-year-old because I do want to see more data on how it affects that age group and the dosing may be different — and of course there is no way she would pass for 12.)

As our daughter prepares to return to school full-time and in-person, it feels so good to know she's going back with this extra protection. It’s not all delight, because we still have an unvaccinated child, but knowing the older one is less likely to transmit it to the younger one is a big deal to me. I’ve stopped trying to make any predictions about what could happen next, because I've been so wrong at so many junctions, so I can’t say for sure this will solve every problem. But it is great peace of mind.