The moment Colleen Kogut was eligible to receive her COVID-19 vaccine, she made her appointment and rolled up her sleeve.
“Euphoric” is how this mom of three kids from Commerce Township felt about finally having a way to protect herself against the disease that has killed more than 586,000 people in the U.S. and sickened more than 100,000 residents in Oakland County.
“I had no hesitation about getting the vaccine, and I’m very lucky that my husband and I, throughout the whole pandemic, have been on the same page,” Kogut says. “We both knew we didn’t want to get sick, didn’t want to expose our kids or our parents, and didn’t want to be the reason any of them had to quarantine.”
Now that 12- to 15-year-old kids are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, Kogut’s 14-year-old daughter joined those who live, work or study in Oakland County at the Health Division’s vaccination clinic at the Suburban Collection Showplace clinic in Novi for her first shot this month.
“We walked into the clinic and she couldn’t get the shot in her arm fast enough,” says Kogut, with a laugh. As a high school freshman and student-athlete, Kogut’s daughter can’t wait to have a more normal school experience and social life.
“She wants to enjoy the remaining three-quarters of her high school career in class with her friends. She wants to participate in cheerleading without a mask. She had zero hesitation about getting vaccinated,” Kogut says.
One by one, as Oakland County parents and their eligible children are vaccinated, they are helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, says Dr. Russell Faust, medical director for Oakland County Health Division.
Two of Dr. Faust’s three kids were also vaccinated this month. He and Kogut say they’re both scheduling vaccines for their other eligible kids once AP exams and soccer seasons are over — which is fair, Dr. Faust says.
Some have no reaction to the vaccine, but others might need a couple of days on the couch he says, adding that his 13-year-old son dragged a little the day after his vaccine. “It didn’t keep him from his activities, but you could see the difference.”
Every parent has a list of reasons for getting their kids vaccinated. We share why Kogut and her family are protecting themselves and their community from COVID-19.
1. Preventing illness
“My daughter may have been fine getting COVID, but no one wants to see their kid get sick,” Kogut says.
As older people are increasingly protected by vaccination, younger individuals — including children — are still testing positive, and some are hospitalized with severe illness.
“There are children downtown in the ICU right now who are struggling to live. In the last several weeks, we have had too many children on (heart-lung machines), which is a last-ditch effort to keep someone alive,” Dr. Faust says. “So let’s bust that myth right now. People have this sense that kids can’t get sick, or they can get sick but don’t die. That’s just false.”
2. Fun with extended family again
With grandparents on both sides of the family living within 3 miles, Kogut says everyone is anxious to spend time together again.
“They’re all very involved, and it was hard not seeing them,” she says. “Our daughter’s first communion is tomorrow and this will be the first party we can have now that all adults are fully vaccinated. We can all be outside together without that stress hanging over our heads.”
3. A return to athletics, summer camp and other activities
In addition to the very real impact on her daughter’s cheerleading season and her son’s soccer tournaments, Kogut welcomes relief from the “exposure stress” on behalf of her kids.
“One girl on my daughter’s cheer team got COVID. She was fine, but everyone had to sit out for 10 days. They couldn’t practice for their competition, and just the stress of getting that phone call was hard. I know the coach hated making the call, too,” she says. “Seeing them go through virtual school and miss events and milestones, that by far was the hardest thing.”
4. Life lessons
To make vaccine decisions, Kogut relied on advice from friends and family in health-related fields which she shared openly with her kids.
“We have talked about respecting other people’s opinions. We’ve also talked a lot about misinformation and what it means to consult a reliable source — not just about medical issues, but about other big life decisions,” Kogut says. “In today’s world, it’s very easy to hear things that maybe aren’t true.”
But Kogut’s vaccine decisions were based on science.
For safety and efficacy, all the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are groundbreaking, Dr. Faust says, drawing on knowledge he gained earning a Ph.D. in molecular biology. Yes, the vaccines broke speed records but the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been under development for two decades and was used successfully in SARS, MERS and Ebola vaccines. And, he says, the COVID-19 vaccines were thoroughly tested for safety.
“In clinical trials, the FDA likes to see 3,000 people in phase 3. For Pfizer, it was in the order of 30,000 to 40,000 people. There was no cutting of corners. These vaccines were under the microscope more than any other in history, with no safety issues,” Dr. Faust says. “There are literally hundreds of millions of people around the planet who have received these vaccines and the safety record is better than virtually any other in history.”
And, because mRNA technology allows for ease of modification, “each vaccine manufacturer is now adjusting the sequences to accommodate the scarier variants that are out there,” he says. “That’s a rapid response and an enormous step forward for vaccine technology and safety.”
5. Protecting the little ones
Pretty soon, Kogut’s 8-year-old daughter will be the only unvaccinated member of the family. While they await news of a vaccine for kids younger than 12, Kogut says their collective vaccine status protects her. “If her sister and brother and mom and dad and her friends’ parents are all vaccinated, there will be fewer transmissions, which will mean a little bubble of protection,” she says.
Dr. Faust says Kogut is correct. “That’s almost a model of so-called herd immunity. It’s a very insightful consideration of this mom and she has got it exactly right,” he says.
6. Ease and convenience
Vaccines are widely available for those who are eligible and Dr. Faust recommends parents contact their doctors or check out a pharmacy.
“It’s just so darn convenient,” he says.
Or, those who live or work in Oakland County can call the Nurse On-call Line at 800-848-5533 or go online to oaklandcountyvaccine.com to make an appointment at one of several convenient clinic locations. Most clinics are even taking walk-in appointments for 12 and up.
Above all, recognize the vaccine’s power to keep all of our kids safe, Dr. Faust says. “The risk of something bad happening to your child if infected with COVID is greater than any risk of the vaccine,” he says.
Learn more at oaklandcountyvaccine.com.