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A shot for children under 5 could put compromised kids' lives back on track

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Pfizer and BioNTech have filed for emergency use authorization for a vaccine regimen for children 6 months to 5 years old. There are still several steps necessary before the vaccine's available, but Christina Cantor of Denver felt like rejoicing for her too-young-to-be-vaccinated son.

CHRISTINA CANTOR: I've told my husband multiple times I would crawl naked over broken glass to get him a vaccine (laughter). Like, I have got to get that kid vaccinated.

SIMON: Their oldest son, Solace, was vaccinated last summer after he was enrolled in the Pfizer study for children ages 5 to 11.

CANTOR: I thought it was a good teachable moment for him about how we can give to other people, that sometimes you just have to be able to see that there is something bigger than yourself.

SIMON: Another, more critical reason was to protect his 3-year-old brother, Aca, who has viral-induced asthma.

CANTOR: Ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF INHALER PUFF)

CANTOR: One, two...

SOLACE CANTOR: There you go.

CANTOR: ...Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

SIMON: And that's Aca taking his morning steroid treatment. He's been to the emergency room at least once each year of his life, struggling to breathe. His family has spent the last two years worried about what would happen if he got COVID. And Christina Cantor says that being a parent during these times has been a difficult balance.

CANTOR: I put them in KN95 masks sooner. Aca is very conscious of the fact that he has asthma and that he can get sick. We made sure to teach him you wash your hands, you do all that, but trying to do it in a way so we don't make him paranoid, so he doesn't become like, oh, I can't be around this person because they could get me sick and blah, blah, blah.

(SOUNDBITE OF TWELWE'S "KAUKO")

CANTOR: I feel like a lot of this has been about me trying not to let my anxiety about them getting sick filter to them, instead trying to empower them with, like, these are the things you can do to protect yourself, and we're going to do that. But there are some things you cannot control, and so we're not going to try to control all of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF TWELWE'S "KAUKO")

CANTOR: Aca, he just seems, like, less interested in people generally. So, for instance, the other day, there were some kids playing out in the pocket park in front of our house. And I asked him, do you want to go outside and play with them? And he was like, those kids are too much. And just like (laughter) - I was like, all right, why do you sound so bedraggled at 3 (laughter)? But he's just not as interested in being social as his brother is. And I think that's because, you know, his social life has been shrunken for so long. I'm curious to see what happens once he gets the vaccine.

(SOUNDBITE OF TWELWE'S "KAUKO")

CANTOR: Even in cases where the parents have received the vaccine, it seems like they're also very concerned about their children getting it. And I hope that people who are hesitant realize there were a group of us parents who decided to put our kids in the trial. We were given a lot of information, and we thought about this carefully, and we did it. I would hope that that would give parents, like, some solace that there's other people who have tried this first, and their kids are OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF TWELWE'S "KAUKO")

CANTOR: All right.

ACA CANTOR: See? I'm already dancing.

CANTOR: You're dancing for the recording? If only they could see you. Go, Aca. Go, go. Go, Aca. Go, go, go. Oh, Aca.

I'd like him to be able to visit family again, to be able to take him on a flight somewhere. I'd like to get him into theater class. He's so expressive, and he's really, like - he's very funny, and he loves to dance. He really wants to learn how to dance like BTS. So I've got to put him in a dance class (laughter). So he's obsessed with J-Hope. They share the same birthday. So when that shot happens, I'll be like, Aca, you can become the next J-Hope.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PERMISSION TO DANCE")

BTS: (Singing) Then you say, I want to dance. The music's got me going. Ain't nothing that can stop how we move.

SIMON: That's Christina Cantor talking about her sons for our series Outbreak Voices. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.