I can recall the exact moment when I began to think that the pandemic was real. I had signed up to go to a yoga class at a local gym. It was a bring your own mat kind of thing and I had extra. I told the teacher I would be there at 6pm with four extra mats ready to practice. By 5:30 I had watched enough news and scrolled enough social media horror that I thought twice about that class and decided not to go. I drove the six minutes down the road to deliver the yoga mats I had promised. I put a mask on, walked in and handed her the mats, “I just can’t do this,” I said, and her eyes turned to pity “I get it- what should I do with the mats when we are done?” “Just keep them for now.” I replied. That was March 13th, 2020 and today, over a year later, those mats are still at that studio because I haven’t had the heart or gut to go out in the world to get them. Our family has a different set of circumstances than most and that’s why I have taken COVID seriously and why my children are in the kids COVID vaccine trial.
Our family was made for this pandemic. I am introverted by nature and we have sheltered in place more than any one family should in a lifetime. Our oldest son, Paul, was born with a critical heart condition that led to transplant at the age of 3. Paul has endured more surgeries, procedures, and hospital stays than I can count. The risk of complication from any infection for a child with a heart transplant can be pretty high- a novel infection could be devastating. The scientific truth is that kids like Paul mostly do pretty well with infection but sometimes infections can be a lot harder to clear because of the compromised immune system one has to maintain to host a transplanted organ. Paul has had a tough go with infections and had several cases of pneumonia in his lifetime, so any respiratory illness is a little harder on him. We now see that transplanted kids have handled and survived COVID-19, but in March 2020 I was ready to move to a remote island somewhere until the pandemic passed (at least until I started “homeschooling”, but I digress).
Last spring, I was ready. I was ready to hunker down like we had so many times, I was ready to love my friends, clients and colleagues through these times with my entire being, and I was ready to care for all of the medical folks I know just a little extra until this passed. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months and somewhere in the midst of all of this lines were drawn, people divided, and social media lit up with self-appointed infectious disease experts. Somehow this became politicized, elevated and ugly.
The condition of parenthood pushes us to protect our own, to do what we think is right for the little and vulnerable people in our lives based on what we research, know, learn, hear or feel. During this year, I feel like I have seen and heard things I can’t unsee. I have watched pain progress in ways I have never known and the talk in the cul-de-sac is who is and is not adhering to the mask mandate. It’s just weird.
Maybe if you are reading this you are like me- just someone’s mom trying to figure this out. I don’t know the answer, and chances are you don’t either. But here is what I think most rational humans can agree on:
- There is a virus that exists
- Said virus can make some people very very sick
- We can prevent the transmission of this virus in various ways that have been scientifically proven. Mask wearing, distancing, staying home if you feel ill, and vaccinations are not new, these strategies come from years of research on how respiratory viruses make their way around town.
One of the best ways to prevent viral transmission is to vaccinate. Vaccines have been around since most people living on this earth today have been alive. I don’t know what the real ramifications of vaccination in any of us are. I can look, through an educated lens, and assume they are very low, but the truth is no one knows anything with absolute certainty. But here’s the truth…
No one knows what getting COVID as a child does long term with absolute certainty either.
The risk, in my opinion, for children holistically is simply too great and much greater than a vaccination. I believe in my heart that the way back to a new normal rests in herd immunity achieved through vaccination. That means that we must vaccinate children and in order to do that, someone has to go first. I have two daughters that will be a part of those that raise their hand to get a shot through a phase 3 clinical trial. Phase 3 trials are not to determine whether something is safe or not- they are seeking to test the least restrictive dose to prevent infection. My girls are not a science experiment. My son was given a second chance at life through transplant where another family made a brave choice, and he was able to live because of that choice. This choice to enroll our family in the kids COVID vaccine trial now is one of bravery that I hope will help in some small way give the world their lives back.
Dr. Colleen Melchiorre is a local Nashville mom of three who works in education. She earned her Doctor of Education from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2011. She decided to enroll two of her children in a COVID vaccine clinical trial to help protect her oldest child, who is especially susceptible to COVID symptoms, and hopes to help other parents understand the importance of vaccination.
Sign up for a clinical trial here.