ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. ( -- After a year of isolation and avoiding crowds, a west St. Louis County mother is pleading for others to get vaccinated.

Kara Hopper, a mother of four, has kept her kids inside away from others out of precaution for her son, Jasper. The 14-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017 prior to his 10th birthday. Hopper said Jasper spent over three years undergoing chemotherapy and finished his final treatment last August. While, the cancer is gone he now suffers from antibody deficiency syndrome, meaning many of his childhood vaccines are no longer effective.

“I just wish people would see and realize how important it is,” Hopper said. “It’s a mild inconvenience for them to get the shot and it’s life or death for some other people.” 

Jasper was vaccinated in May, the first day he was eligible. Early tests are showing a positive immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, but Hopper said she’s unsure how long her son’s antibodies will last. With cases rising in Missouri due to the Delta variant and low vaccination rates, Hopper said she’s extremely worried about her son’s health.

“It’s so frustrating and I know there are people who aren’t well enough informed about it but I feel like there are a lot of people who just aren’t as concerned about others as they should be,” Hopper said.

Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an epidemiologist with Washington University, has spent more than a year studying the COVID-19 virus and its variants. Dr. Al-Aly is warning others the Delta variant is different than the original COVID-19 strain; the variant is known to be highly transmissible and has a higher risk of hospitalization and death.

Doctors and researchers credit the summer months for keeping people outside where the virus is harder to contract, but they worry what colder months will bring.

“When people are back in school and the weather starts to wind down, when we get to October or November this will be a much more difficult picture,” Al-Aly said. “It’s very important to nip it in the bud and try to get as many people vaccinated as possible now so the consequences aren’t worse.”

Dr. Al-Aly said area hospitals are prepared for case numbers to peak higher than what the St. Louis area experienced last winter. He stresses the only way to stop a potential surge is to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

“It’s very frustrating – how blessed are we to have the vaccine, available to everybody?” Al-Aly said. “We’re lucky to have gotten it approved for emergency use in such record time.”

Through sharing her son’s story, Kara Hopper hopes people understand the importance of getting vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but others.

“When people say only those who are immune-compromised are vulnerable or only people with pre-existing conditions are dying, that’s my child, his life means something,” Hopper said.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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