⚠ COVID-19 INFORMATION: Resources, Vaccine Information

Matias’ Story: ‘Vaccines save lives’

January 11, 2022

Since he was born, Matias, now 11, has lived with an immune disorder that puts him at a greater risk for severe complications as a result of even the mildest germs. The condition, known as hypogammaglobulinemia, means his body cannot produce enough antibodies called immunoglobins to help the body fight off invasive bacteria and viruses. A team of immunologists at Lurie Children’s keeps Matias’ system strong and stimulated with regular infusions, while cardiologists and neurologists make sure his heart and brain stay healthy and protected.

Though the condition has affected Matias’ daily life, he’s managed to cope with the support of his parents, Katherine and Francisco, and two older siblings, Sofia, 13, and Nick, 15.

But for Matias and his family, life as they knew it came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. As they learned more about the virus with the rest of the world, they grew increasingly concerned that infection for Matias could put him in severe danger.

Out of concern for Matias’ vulnerable immune system, the family quarantined for well over a year, keeping a tight bubble of immediate family and going to great lengths to avoid the risk of exposure to the virus.

“Everyone was careful for one another,” Katherine said. “We didn’t even go to the park two blocks away. The kids would ride their bikes around the block, or we’d walk around the forest preserve early in the morning before it got crowded.”

‘We’re finally moving out of this thing’

While in survival mode, the family closely followed news about the development of COVID-19 vaccines, hopeful about the new level of protection the immunization could offer. When vaccines were approved and made available for adults, Katherine and Francisco opted in to receive their first doses at the earliest available date in winter 2021.

“When I came home after my shot, I was crying because it was such an emotional experience,” Katherine said. “The kids were asking, ‘Why are you crying?’ I said, ‘This is very exciting. It’s good news. We’re finally moving out of this thing.’”

The family eagerly awaited vaccine approvals for the kids, and continued ongoing conversations about the choice to get vaccinated.

“As parents, we really want to make the kids a part of the decision-making process for everything we do,” Katherine said. “When the time came for our teenagers to have a chance to get vaccinated, we made sure to say, ‘This is your choice.’ It turned out that they were excited to get it. Matias was so excited for his siblings to get vaccinated, too.”

As the CDC and the FDA prepared to approve the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds in fall 2021, spirits were high in the Parodi household. Matias and his parents also kept in close contact with his team of immunologists to ensure it was safe for him to receive the vaccine. Finally, in November 2021, Matias was one of the first children in the five-to-11 age group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Afterwards, he and his family celebrated with ice cream sundaes at their home.

The vaccine has come with worthwhile benefits for Matias. He was able to return to school in person last fall, where he could finally learn alongside and play with his friends after being at home for over 600 days.

The peace of mind that the vaccine has brought the Parodi family is second to none, Katherine said. “Our Christmas card was vaccine-themed,” she said. “It was one of the biggest days ever for us as a family.”

For his part, Matias hopes his story brings reassurance to any families experiencing vaccine hesitancy. “It’s OK to be scared, but it doesn’t hurt,” Matias said. “Vaccines save lives.”

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