Parents of child with leukemia ask state to make them eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

West Bay

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, Aspen Peck was only two months old.

“She was born into a pandemic,” her father Troy Peck said. “She’s really never been anywhere.”

At first, Troy was only worried about what the virus might take from his family.

But what he didn’t realize, was his daughter would be diagnosed with leukemia less than a year later.

“The potential of her catching anything and it just killing her is really terrifying,” Troy said.

While Aspen is too young to receive the COVID-19 vaccine herself, her parents are asking the state to allow them to get their shots so they can protect her compromised immune system.

“We can’t get sick,” he said. “We can’t afford to get that type of illness, because it would just take time away from being able to care for her.”

R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott sympathized with those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, but said the state plans allow Rhode Islanders ages 60 and older, as well as residents ages 16 and older with underlying health conditions, to sign up for their shot by mid-March.

Troy said right now, he and his wife are considered to be part of the general public, meaning that, regardless of their daughter’s condition, they won’t be eligible for the vaccine for some time.

It’s something he called “mind blowing.”

“Time for us is of the essence,” Troy said. “When you’re going through this, at times, it seems like it’s hour-by-hour … and the idea of getting sick just freaks you out.”

Troy said near the end of Aspen’s first round of chemotherapy, he spiked a fever. While his COVID-19 test ultimately came back negative, he was still forced to wait days after he’d fully recovered for his results to come in before he could see his daughter again.

“It adds a complication that I don’t know that many people can really relate to personally,” he said. “Anybody could probably imagine, but once you go through that, it’s awful, especially when one of your children is acutely ill.”

Troy said he’s not only advocating for he and his wife to get vaccinated.

“It’s not just about us getting the vaccine,” he said. “It’s about getting everyone who’s in our situation the vaccine.”

The Peck family has received an immense amount of support from the community since Aspen’s diagnosis. A GoFundMe page set up to help pay for her medical expenses has already raised more than $75,000 since January.

Troy said his family has been overwhelmed by just how many people have reached out to them.

“It’s one of those things that you never want to go through, but the response from friends, relatives and even people we don’t know has been unreal,” he said.

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