Health Watch: Fairbanks mother discusses overcoming hurdles to vaccinate son with disabilities

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Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 4:20 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Jodi Jendry faced several hurdles in her efforts to get her son Aiden vaccinated for COVID-19.

According to Jendry, Aiden is autistic with high support needs and various health concerns including several allergies. Jendry was worried about how her son would react if he caught COVID-19; however, she was also concerned with how he might react to getting a vaccination.

“I knew that whenever Aiden got sick before, we had to go to the emergency room,” Jendry explained, “and they had to sedate him in order to just give him an IV to get him back to normal. So this was going to be really tricky, getting the shot, because I was worried about needles getting broken in his arm from jerking, hitting somebody, running away, hurting himself or someone. It was too scary to even imagine him getting it.”

The first real hurdle was faced when Jendry received her own vaccination, as she had to ensure the procedure didn’t come across as frightening to Aiden.

Jendry elaborated, “I was really nervous because we had to take Aiden with us, and I didn’t know how he would respond. We had to sit there with literally no emotions at all when we got the shot because we didn’t want to scare him.”

Jendry formulated a plan with health care providers at the Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center to help ease her son into getting his vaccination. This included a dose of medication to help ease his nerves as well as plenty of distractions.

“As the medication was taking effect, that’s when they started giving him the shot,” Jendry remarked. ”But we distracted him with the blood pressure cuff, and we had our tablets and phones open so he could play games, watch videos, listen to music, whatever it was he was wanting -- and we totally distracted him the whole time. Then they sprayed his arm so it was temporarily numb for a few minutes, enough time to give him the shot and he didn’t even know he got it.”

Jennifer Miller, a Medical Assistant with Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center, offered some advice on how family members could help children with disabilities get vaccinated as well.

Miller explained, “I would really recommend setting up an appointment with your provider to sit down and talk with them and try to ease the concerns of everyone. I would definitely recommend to do it with the patient, be calm with them, let them answer as many questions, and ask as many questions as you have.”

Along with staying calm and patient, communication can also be key to helping loved ones with disabilities receive their vaccine.

“Some of the obstacles with any child with disabilities or any child or family member with a disabilities is just being patient and understanding,” Miller continued, “because as everybody’s anxiety and stress goes up, so will that child’s. I think that just getting them to understand that ‘yes, this will hurt, but this is the way that medication has to happen and this will help you in the long run.’ Sometimes [it’s just] being there, explaining things and being honest. People like to say that vaccines don’t hurt but they do, and that’s ok. Be there to just support them and hold their hand as they go through it, and give them the opportunity to talk or not talk if that’s what they need, and distractions.”

Reflecting on the experience, Jendry said, “It worked out so well. I don’t know what I would’ve done. I mean he still wears his mask, we all do. Whenever we go out of the house, we always wear our masks. I feel better now. I feel safer, I can actually relax.”

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