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'I would be a lot safer.' Local 13-year-old shares why she asked to be vaccinated

Posted at 8:38 AM, Sep 09, 2021

WXYZ — As we start another school year still in the shadow of the pandemic and still without an approved vaccine for kids under 12, COVID case numbers and trends involving kids are even more concerning for doctors.

As of one week ago, Michigan was one of 11 states with more than 150,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in kids, according to data published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, which shows Michigan falling just behind Ohio.

States with the largest increases in child COVID cases tend to be in the south right now — places like Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.

We recently met local 13-year-old, Madeline Hooper.

“I’m in 8th grade at Farmington Student Academy," Hooper said.

Her mom is the Interim Chair of Pediatrics at Henry Ford Health System, so, of course, Madeline has heard all about the vaccine, and why doctors feel it's so important for those who are eligible.

But when Madeline, who happens to have a serious needle phobia, first learned about the vaccine, she was just 12 and eligibility hadn't expanded to those under 16 yet.

“It was surprising cause she’s never asked for a vaccine," said Madeline's mom, Dr. Tisa Johnson-Hooper. She said even annual shots like the flu shot tend to frighten her youngest.

Despite that, Madeline was insistent that she get vaccinated as soon as she's able. Shortly after that request, eligibility expanded to include children as young as 12. That's when Madeline proudly rolled up her sleeve with her mom on the other end of the syringe.

“I was terrified still, but I was a lot happier because I knew if I got the vaccine, I would be a lot safer," the 13-year-old told Action News.

“She was tired of COVID. And I think she thought this vaccine was the key back to some normalcy," Dr. Johnson-Hooper said.

Madeline said she was sick of not seeing her friends, virtual learning, and having to wear a mask everywhere.

For her, a vaccine represented a ticket back to sleepovers, birthday parties, and being inside a classroom.

“I was hoping that it would make other people want to get the vaccine. And I was hoping that once I did get the vaccine, I could help myself and help other people stay safe and not have to worry as much about COVID," Madeline said.

Statewide in Michigan, only 32.4 percent of kids 12-15 are fully vaccinated, the smallest percentage of any age group in our state.

“We know that children who contract Delta variant at the same rate as adults," Dr. Johnson-Hooper said.

According to the CDC between late June and late July, hospitalizations for unvaccinated adolescents were 10 times higher than for those who were fully vaccinated, something health officials connect to the delta variant's spread.

Federal health officials don't anticipate a vaccine for kids 5 to 11 to be cleared until late fall or early winter; an authorization for a vaccine for kids as young as six months would come even later.