Grade 6 student’s vaccination story goes global on BBC News
Áine was likely among the first people in the 12-15 age group to be vaccinated, in the world.
Canadian kids were eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on May 5 and the BBC World Service was looking for one to interview. Her dad, Kevin Brennan, posted on Twitter after the Grade 6 student got her first dose, and one of his followers, a BBC associate, reached out. You can hear the radio broadcast, featuring Áine and Kevin, aired on May 28, here (27:07 to 43:15).
“The experience allowed me to speak about the global impact of COVID and the importance of vaccine equity and accessibility,” says Áine. She wasn’t at all nervous to get the shot and her only after-effect was a sore arm. “It was an opportunity to show how our voices can make other youths feel reassured [about vaccination]."
Áine has a heightened awareness about the importance of promoting and supporting public health initiatives. Her dad, Kevin, received a life-saving liver transplant in 2018 at the Toronto General Hospital (TGH).
“During the pre- and post-transplant journey, Kevin and I have explained the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the importance of health prevention and promotion to both Áine and our son Ciarán,” says their mother Leslie, a nurse practitioner at the Soham & Ajmer Family Transplant Center at TGH.
“Both of our kids often share about Kevin’s transplant experience to enhance their friends’ knowledge about organ donation and how it can save lives,” she says. “They both realized that adhering to the public health measures associated with COVID was crucial to keeping Kevin safe, given that he is highly immuno-compromised. Both kids lead by example with their peers by reminding people of how these public health measures can save lives.”
Although Áine waited three hours at a pop-up clinic, then left as the clinic ran out of vaccine, she was not discouraged.
“It made her more determined to access the vaccine as soon as possible,” says Leslie. By collaborating with another Branksome family, they worked together to find a clinic with open availability. “Áine felt very humbled to be able to gain access to the Pfizer vaccine within a few days of being eligible to receive it.”
In addition to her global message, Áine has also made a difference locally. After visiting her dad in the hospital after he received his transplant, she noticed many patients had few visitors. Her class made cards for them and the initiative was a big hit on the transplant unit.
Although Áine was more nervous about doing the BBC interview than getting her shot, Leslie credits Branksome with her daughter’s on-air poise. “The leadership skills that Branksome fosters in their [students] as future leaders really gave Áine the confidence to do this interview,” says Leslie.