Tag along with one 7-year-old Vermonter as he gets his first COVID shot
More than 30% of Vermont kids between the ages of 5 and 11 have signed up through the state portal to get their first COVID shot, and more will be able to choose pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices as the state gets additional doses.
For many families, this is a momentous occasion. But even exciting things can be hard. VPR followed one young Vermonter through a rollercoaster of emotions as he got his first dose this morning.
It was raining in Montpelier when Owen Welsch walked up to the State Street Middle School for his 9:45 vaccine appointment. His 4-year-old sister Gretta was with him and so was his mom, Jessica, who said Owen had been looking forward to this moment.
“Owen has been excited for months and just waiting and anticipating that kids could get their COVID shot,” Jessica said. “And he asked me to write a letter to our Health Commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, requesting that he could be the first Vermonter under the age of 12 to get his COVID vaccination.”
While he wasn’t the first kid to get vaccinated, he was among the first 14,000 who have already signed up to get the shot, and he was eager to help other kids feel comfortable doing the same. So he had agreed to be followed by VPR as he went through the process.
He had even worn a special t-shirt with helmets from The Mandalorian, one of his favorite pieces of clothing, for the occasion.
But it’s really hard to do something that can feel scary, like getting a shot, even if you really want to do it. And Owen found himself a little overwhelmed as he was ushered into the school gym to register, and then headed over to a semi-private area where he’d actually get the vaccine.
With lots of encouragement from local and state health workers and several reassuring hugs from Mom, Owen faced his fear, removed his sweatshirt, and bravely revealed his upper arm to take the shot.
After getting a button and a sticker, his vaccine card, and an appointment for his second dose, the Welsches walked over to the bleachers, where a Disney movie was playing on a projector, and a few other families were already sitting for a brief observation period.
By the time his 15 minutes were up, Owen was visibly relieved and starting to regain his initial enthusiasm for the whole affair.
Outside at a picnic table next to the school, he said he was feeling great, and protected.
“It was scary but kind of exciting,” Owen said. “The scary part was that I thought it was going to hurt a little more, and then the exciting part was that I was going to get the shot. It hurt a little bit but not a lot.”
Jessica said she was proud of Owen and excited about what it means for kids like him to be getting vaccinated.
“I told him this morning, I was like, ‘Oh gosh, I hope I don’t cry,’” she said. “I’m not a crier, but I knew I’d be pretty emotional, because we’ve been waiting for this for so long, as a mom and in the parent community, but also in the medical community."
Jessica works as a physician assistant at UVM Medical Center urgent care and said she was feeling nervous as the delta variant started making more kids around the country sick. So she looked at Owen’s shot today as one more step in beating down the virus.
The Welsch family was planning to celebrate Owen’s bravery with a special playdate in the afternoon. And they’ll be back at the beginning of December for Owen to get round two.
But, before they left for the day, Gretta, as little sisters are wont to do, wanted to get her perspective in, too.
“I can’t wait to get mine,” she said. And Gretta already knows when that’ll happen:
“On my birthday, when I turn 5!”
Gretta only has to wait until January for her turn.