Saskatchewan·First Person

COVID-19 upturned my family life but vaccines for kids offer us a pinch of hope

As the mother to three medically fragile children, Jenn Summers writes that the vaccine approval for children ages five to 11 has given her family renewed hope.

Hearing my children ask "why do people not care about the kids?" has broken me

Jenn Summers has three children with medically complex backgrounds, and writes that the pandemic has upturned their lives. But a COVID-19 vaccine approved for children ages five to 11 offers hope for the future. (Submitted by Jenn Summers)

This First Person column is written by Jenn Summers, a mother of three who lives in Saskatchewan. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ

The excitement of a kids' vaccine for COVID-19 has made it feel like Christmas has come early in my home. 

Hope for a better future has become a reality this week with Canada approving vaccinations for children ages five to 11

The relief I felt getting my second shot is nowhere near the relief I feel for my three medically complex children about to get their vaccinations. Now, there's no more explaining why they need to wait to help put an end to COVID-19. No more anticipating the approval. Our hope is renewed. 

Being a mom of three children during a pandemic comes with challenges. Being a mom of three medically complex children during a pandemic — well, let's just say it's exhausting and profoundly overwhelming. 

As mothers, we try to protect our children from the day they are born. We allow them to take steps and we encourage them to grow, to thrive, to live life. We would do anything to keep them safe. 

Not all children are born healthy. Some have complications even in the womb. Some parents see their child so ill that they fear they may die. That fear in your heart goes through your soul and takes up space in the back of your throat. You wonder if you will ever breathe the same again. That fear in itself is terrifying.

Then a pandemic comes along — with a virus we knew nothing about how to control, much less stop. 

In the eight years since having our twin girls, I have never felt so alone. It's worse than when I was in a out-of-province city when my newborn was getting health care, knowing nobody but the sick baby in my arms.

Back when my children were first born, I had so much support. So many people, even complete strangers, helped us through one of the most difficult times of our lives. 

Now, I'm once again depending on complete strangers to help us end the fight against COVID-19. 

We keep hearing that children are less likely to get seriously ill from this virus. Often forgotten are the children who are medically complex. My three children have serious asthma, along with other underlying conditions that doctors believe may be neurological and neuromuscular in nature. 

They have taken the brunt of the pandemic. They stayed home, they lost contact with friends and their social circle. Their medical appointments went virtual, their therapies and surgeries got cancelled or pushed into longer wait times. They hardly see anyone face to face anymore, including doctors, unless it's an emergency. 

The system fails to protect our most vulnerable. In Saskatchewan, health-care slowdowns have meant children like mine have seen their therapies and surgeries cancelled — children whom we as parents would do anything to protect.

Last fall, when families were getting ready to send their kids back to school in Saskatchewan, we knew we would be keeping them at home, rather than at school, in order to protect them. 

I've heard people say they are losing their freedoms and their rights over a hoax, but what about our children and their freedoms and their rights to things we often take for granted, like health care? What about their ability to safely be involved in the outside world? 

A man stands behind a woman, crouching down, and three young girls sitting in lawn chairs. All wear orange shirts reading "Every Child Matters."
Jenn Summers and her family have made adjustments to their lives, including having their three children learn at home rather than school, to stay safe in the pandemic. (Submitted by Jenn Summers)

They have given up so much. My daughters miss school, their friends and talking to people outside of our home, including the medical specialists they urgently need to see.

Hearing my children ask me, "Why do people not care about the kids?" has broken me. I'm not sure it's fixable. 

Things are changing once again, but now there is hope in the form of a vaccine for children ages five to 11. My three medically complex children now can look forward to a return to some form of normalcy in their lives.

These little warriors are pulling up their sleeves and showing the world how much they care. Even if they fear needles, they fear seclusion much more.

I am just one mom to three beautiful little girls who happen to be at higher risk of COVID-19 putting them in jeopardy. There are many others out there. We finally see the little glimmer of hope come into our children's eyes.

It's a time for a new beginning and a much needed end. We can do this together, united as one. We can show everyone, of every age, that no matter who they are, whether they are at risk or medically complex, that they are important and their lives matter. 

One little pinch of hope at a time.

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Jenn Summers is a small business owner residing with her family in Northern Saskatchewan.


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