On Monday, both of our girls, ages 5 and 10, finally received the first dose of their COVID vaccines. It was like a weight off of my shoulders. They both bore the injection stoically, if a little nervously. They arrived home with band-aided arms, and smiles on their faces at the thought of getting some McDonald’s shakes for being so brave. The Littlest Miss, age 5, precocious as she is, came to me later to ask about the vaccine.
“Now that I got the COVID shot, I can’t get COVID, right?” she asked.
“It’s very, very unlikely,” I told her.
“And the vaccine might make me not feel good for a day?”
“It depends,” I said, “Everyone reacts a little differently. Most likely, you’ll just have a sore arm.”
She thought about this for a moment, and then asked, “How come if the vaccine is supposed to prevent COVID, it makes me not feel good?”
I considered this for a moment. Then I remembered that she’d recently had a fire drill at school. “You know how you just had a fire drill at school?” She nodded. “What do you do during the fire drill?”
“We line up and then the teacher takes us outside,” she said.
“And why do you do that?”
“So we know what to do if there is a real fire,” she said.
“Was there a real fire during the fire drill?”
“No,” the Littlest Miss said, “it was just practice.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s what your body is doing with the COVID vaccine. It is practicing–learning really–how to fight off COVID if it gets into your body. The vaccine teachers your body what COVID looks like so your body knows how to fight it. When your body fights something, it does things like raise your temperature to make it uncomfortable for the viruses and other things it fights to survive. But when it raises your temperature, it also makes you feel yucky for a day or so. So the vaccine makes your body react the way you do in a fire drill. It’s practice. This way, if your body ever sees COVID–just like if you see a real fire–it knows how to put out that fire so that it doesn’t hurt you.”
“But how come I have to get two shots?” she asked.
“Well, do you have only one fire drill at school?”
“No. We have a lot of them. We also have lockdown drills and earthquake drills.”
“And each time you get better at what to do. And that’s what the vaccines do–they make your body better at fighting COVID.”
“Okay,” the Littlest Miss said. She seemed satisfied. “Now, can get you get me a Happy Meal with chicken nuggets, apple slices, and a TOY? Also, a chocolate shake? Please?”
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