Richmond first grader conquers fear of needles, gets first dose of COVID vaccine

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Children ages 5 to 11 years old are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. A Richmond first grader made the decision to roll up her sleeves in hopes of keeping others safe.

At just 6-years-old Erica Crowley conquered her fear of needles and got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday evening at First Baptist Church on Iron Bridge Road. Her father, Chris Crowley, breathing a little easier Wednesday morning when sending her off to school, while Erica tells 8News she is being brave to help others.

“To keep my friends safe that cannot get it and that are younger than me–and are like not 5,” Erica told 8News.

Every morning the father-daughter duo walk to school together, but Wednesday morning Erica was sporting something new– a button reading “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” and a star-shaped sparkly band-aid.

In September, two months ago, 8News interviewed Crowley as vaccines for young children were on the brink of federal approval. As a parent, Crowley said he was eager for the approval and supported his daughter getting vaccinated.

“We’re on board,” Crowley told 8News in September.

Fast forward to November and it’s now a reality.

“I got my vaccine,” Erica shouted loud and proud on Wednesday morning.

The first-grader even documented dose one on her dad’s phone whispering, “I just got my vaccine–it hurted a little bit. And then I had to sit in a room for like 15 minutes.”

But Erica’s journey to vaccination wasn’t without hesitation. Scared of needles, she tried to get the vaccine on another day, but changed her mind and was scared and crying at the clinic.

“She said she wasn’t ready and we went home disappointed two nights ago, but we respect her and I love her,” Crowley said. “But when we left she said papa I really wanna try again.”

After one failed attempt, Erica said she wanted to be brave and rolled up her sleeve only this time it was a success.

“She got a huge round of applause from all the parents and nurses that were there,” Crowley recalled. “I’m super duper proud of her.”


The first-grader received her first dose, all while conquering her fears and not staying away from the classroom. Less than 24-hours from her shot and Erica was up and at’em, walking to school and sharing the news with friends on her walk to school.

Crowley told 8News, the vaccine was something their family had discussed and ultimately his daughter made the decision on her own. Erica told 8News that she wanted to help people who can’t get the shot and keep people safe. She also said that she can’t wait to visit her grandparents for the holidays, hug her friends again, and travel to New York for a Broadway show.

Erica will get her second dose in three weeks and says she hopes other kids won’t be scared, but if they are she has some advice.

“Just fake be brave,” Erica said.

The Richmond-Henrico Health District says there are about 44,000 children, aged 5 to 11, eligible for the vaccine in their district. If parents are interested in getting their child vaccinated, they’re asked to call their local health department, pharmacy, or pediatrician.

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