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'We just have to be really careful with her' | Waco mother, whose daughter has serious health issues, urging COVID-19 vaccines before holidays

She hopes that by sharing her daughters story it can touch at least one person, especially those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

WACO, Texas — A Waco mother is urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine after she and her family isolated for more than a year due to her daughter's health.

Erin Shank is the mother of 24-year-old Rachel who was born with down syndrome, epilepsy and lung problems.

"We just have to be really very careful with her and there's a lot of Rachels in McLennan County," Shank said. 

Throughout her life, she has been hospitalized 64 times and had pneumonia 26 times. The most recent scare was just three weeks ago and it was pneumonia again.

"I lived through 24 hours wondering if Rachel had COVID and what the outcome would be and they repeatedly said she's been triple vaccinated, she's gonna be fine, she'll live through it, which is much more refreshing than what I had heard 18 months previously," Shank said.  

When the pandemic began, things were much different for their family. 

"They told me that there was a virus going around and that if Rachel got it, it could be fatal," Shank said. 

Rachel's parents and her siblings spent 14 months sheltered in place. 

"No Christmas, no birthdays, no grocery store, no church, nothing," Shank recalled. 

They got the vaccine as soon as they became available and returned to sort of normalcy, then back into lockdown as cases rose with the delta variant. 

"When you have a loved one that has a serious health issue then that's what you do as a mother's love, and father's love and brother's love for Rach," Shank said. 

She said she is a strong advocate for the vaccine and that it's not a political issue, but a medical one.

"If you're going to be in a holiday gathering with folks that aren't vaccinated or even folks that are elderly like your grandmother, grandparents, your favorite auntie coming into town, why not get vaccinated before you see them so that you're not a carrier and give them this disease which can have such terrible side effects," Shank said. 

She said she hopes that by sharing her daughter's story, it can touch at least one person, especially those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

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