an open letter to governor janet mills re: covid vaccines

Dear Governor Mills,

I've heard it said that a society—government, nation—can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.

My seventeen-year-old son, Calvin, suffers from multiple physical and developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy. He is nonverbal, legally blind, incontinent and can do little to nothing by himself. His chronic epilepsy means his risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19 is three times greater than the general population. Despite his limitations, his life is precious.

Currently, it is unclear if children like Calvin are eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccination as part of Maine's 1b vaccination phase. Nowhere on Maine's vaccine rollout plan are children with high-risk medical conditions mentioned. Though Calvin is old enough to receive the Pfizer vaccine, only adults with high-risk conditions are listed in phase 1b. Children age 16 and up are listed as the last to receive the vaccine as part of phase 2, which isn't expected to begin until June. 

Calvin cannot grasp abstractions, does not understand the existence or dangers of a pandemic and will not keep a mask on his face. He constantly touches and mouths surfaces and puts his fingers in his mouth with frequency. For these reasons we have kept him home from school since last March. Due to his intellectual deficits and the side effects of epilepsy medication which cause him to be restless, he is not capable of attending to a screen and therefore is unable to participate in remote schooling. I have no doubt that there are likely scores of children in Maine who fit this profile. Fortunately, I am able to take care of our son all day every day while my husband is at work, though it has been physically and emotionally challenging. 

Considering the fact that vaccines are not 100% effective and experts have not determined if the virus can be shed by vaccinated people, it is critical that vulnerable kids like Calvin and their family members get vaccinated as soon as possible. Needless to say, if Calvin were to get sick it would be devastating for our family. Moreover, if my husband and/or I were to get seriously ill or die, it could prove catastrophic in terms of providing for Calvin's care since he requires twenty-four hours a day of hands-on supervision and assistance with all activities of daily living. In other words, caring for Calvin while maintaining a household requires both of us.

If Maine is to pass the moral test of caring for its most vulnerable, it is imperative that children age 16 and up with high-risk medical conditions be added to the phase 1b Covid-19 vaccine rollout without delay.

To learn more about Calvin, I invite you to read my blog, which Dora Anne Mills, Senator Angus King and State Senator Mattie Daughtry follow.

Thank you in advance for your consideration,

Christy Shake

An abridged version of this letter was sent directly to Governor Mills.

Calvin with one of his favorite toys.