After working at Stamford Hospital during COVID, Ridgefield parents plan to vaccinate their kids

RIDGEFIELD — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized on Tuesday for children ages 5 to 11 to access COVID-19 vaccines, and one family has already decided to inoculate their youngsters when the shots become available.

Caitlin and Maher Madhoun moved to Ridgefield nine years ago after meeting on the cardiac floor of Stamford Hospital. They have three children: Jayden, 9, Landon, 8, and Nora, 4. Jayden and Landon attend Scotland Elementary School, and Nora is a preschool student at St. Mary’s.

Caitlin Madhoun is a registered nurse at Stamford Hospital, and Maher Madhoun is the director of clinical operations. During the height of the pandemic, Caitilin Madhoun worked in the intensive care unit looking after COVID patients firsthand.

“It was something that I have never experienced in my life,” she said. “Seeing how sick these patients were … was wearing emotionally, physically and spiritually on all of us.”

Despite Maher Madhoun’s training as an infectious disease specialist, “No one was prepared for a pandemic like this,” he said. “The acuity of patients that developed in the hospital was never seen before, frankly … (so) when the adult vaccines came out, we were one of the first people to sign up for it.”

Since the vaccine rollout began, the Madhouns have been following the data closely, they said, reviewing safety profiles as well as each shot’s efficacy. But the recent emergence of more highly-contagious strains, such as the delta variant, has caused more children who contract COVID-19 to subsequently become hospitalized, Maher Madhoun explained.

“Within the last two months there’s been a lot more data coming out from Pfizer … (and) we feel very comfortable in vaccinating our two kids that qualify for it,” he said. “We love our kids, we would never do anything that would be potentially harmful to them, so we’re very confident about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.”

Caitlin hopes her family can set a precedent for other parents when it comes to inoculating their 5-11 year olds.

“People are fearful of the unknown, but I think in reality they’re waiting to see who does it first,” she said. “I hope that we can lead by example for the community ... and get these kids back to their ‘normal lifestyle’ that they (had) pre-pandemic.”

Ridgefield Public Schools Director of Nursing Services Aaron Crook said the district is considering mobile vaccine vans provided by the state as a “possible option” for its 5-11 year old students. He has also said once vaccines are approved for this age group, quarantines could drop “dramatically” district-wide.

“When people get vaccinated, the chance of transmission reduces dramatically,” Maher Madhoun added. “We really want to support the community in any way possible. Reach out to your local health care provider who can answer any questions you may have.”

The Madhoun family’s pediatrician, Susan Lasky, also lives in Ridgefield and has two teenage daughters in the district. Both of them are vaccinated. Lasky said about 50 percent of her patients have expressed interest in inoculating their 5-11 year old children, and she encouraged other parents to trust the science.

“The Pfizer vaccine has been well studied and gone through the same rigorous testing and analysis as all the other childhood vaccines … (which) have been scrutinized probably more than any other medications/pharmaceuticals on the market,” she said. “Getting vaccinated with a vaccine that is safe, studied and tested is our best way out of this.”

Caitlin Madhoun noted a recent instance when her daughter accompanied her to the supermarket. Nora had forgotten her mask in the car, and said she couldn’t go in because she was not yet vaccinated.

“I’m worried about the mental health of our kids, but I feel that this will create more stability,” Caitlin Madhoun said. “Once they get the vaccine they’ll feel more protected.”

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com