By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
A shot in the arm may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to celebrating a little girl’s fifth birthday. But for June Jones, it was a party indeed.
June, the daughter of the Rev. Heath and Kelly Jones of Indianapolis, stood in line at The Children’s Museum last Thursday, excited to be getting her first Covid vaccine on the first day she became eligible for the shot.
The free clinic for adults and kids, a partnership between the museum and Riley Hospital for Children, attracted approximately 300 people for the Covid vaccine and another 100 for the flu shot.
Clad in a red party dress, “Junebug” told everyone within ear shot that it was her birthday.
While some might have thought it was an odd way to celebrate, the preschooler was eager to join her older sister and her parents in being protected against the coronavirus that has ravaged the United States, killing more than 800,000 in this country since it was first identified in early 2020.
Vaccines rolled out to adults almost a year later, and in November 2021, the FDA and CDC approved a lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine for use in children ages 5-11.
To be fair, this wasn’t how June had planned to celebrate her birthday. She was looking forward to a party play date in the park, but when several of her friends had to isolate due to Covid exposure, the family had to pivot once again.
“We had to tell her we’re probably going to have to switch to a virtual party,” Kelly Jones said. “She got a little weepy and said, ‘I just want Covid to be over. I want it to be like the olden days.’ ”
The “olden days” would be two years ago, when June was celebrating her third birthday. It was a simpler time when she could play with her friends and eat inside restaurants with her family.
When Kelly heard about the vaccine clinic at the museum last week and that it was happening on her daughter’s birthday, she and her husband picked June up from school and told her they were going to the museum, where she could play, “and they have your vaccine.”
“She was excited,” Kelly said. “She’s been wanting to get it and understands how it will keep her safe and help keep others around her safe.”
But she is still just a kid. And shots are not her favorite thing.
“She’s a loud one when getting a shot,” Kelly laughed.
Sure enough, June shed a few tears but bounced right back when she saw the stuffed bear and new face mask she and other kids received. For her, they were like birthday presents, and she knew that afterward she would get to play in the museum.
The next day, Kelly said June woke up with no ill effects, not even a sore arm, and scooted off to preschool.
Asked why she thought it so important to have her children vaccinated, Kelly acknowledged that her advocacy for the vaccine has caused tension among some in her circle. But she and her husband, who leads a church with a majority older membership, believe it is the right thing to do.
“From the beginning of this, he’s been working to keep his congregation safe,” she said.
“We know what this virus is doing to the unvaccinated. We know people who have lost family members. And we know the importance of teaching the science behind it and teaching our kids what it means to stay healthy and protect others.”
Not just from Covid, but from flu too, she said.
“I didn’t start getting the flu shot until I was pregnant – my doctor told me I really needed to get the flu shot. We’ve seen the gravity in those at higher risk during flu season,” she said.
“We had no idea who we could have been causing harm to by not getting our flu shot. So, it’s an awareness of how we protect others and protect ourselves.”
Like other hospitals, Riley has been hit hard by the pandemic – both in increasing patient numbers and staff becoming ill or having to quarantine.
The Indiana National Guard deployed a team to assist at Riley late last week, the 13th IU Health hospital to receive such support. In addition, a large team from the U.S. Navy is helping to support staff at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach right now,” said Liz Linden, chief nursing officer for the IU Health Academic Health Center, during a phone call with media last week.
Go to OurShot.IN.gov to make an appointment for a vaccine.
Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, email@example.com