The eight-year-old Ann Arbor boy says he is proud to be vaccinated against COVID-19

An 8-year-old boy from Ann Arbor was among the first children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Michigan to be vaccinated.

Bear Bednarski is an Ann Arbor third grader who was vaccinated against COVID-19 just days after it became available to younger children.

Lisa Barry from WEMU speaks to Bear and his mother Cole Bednarski about the experience that children between the ages of 5 and 11 can now be vaccinated against the virus.

Listen to the full interview.


Lisa Barry: Most babies are given a series of vaccinations during their first or second year of life to help control a range of diseases. But it wasn’t until this week that children between the ages of five and eleven were vaccinated against COVID-19. This is Lisa Barry, and an eight-year-old boy from Ann Arbor was among the first to receive the vaccine and is now joining us to share the experience. Welcome Bear Bednarski and his mother Cole. Thank you for talking to us here at WEMU.

Cole Bednarski: Thank you for having us.

Lisa Barry: Bear, you are eight years old. What class are you in?

Bear Bednarski: Third.

Lisa Barry: Third grade. I know you’re only eight but do you know what happened to this pandemic and disease and how did your mom explain to you what happened in the last year or so?

Bear Bednarski: Well, last year you told me that a lot of people get sick and die just because of COVID. And somehow I didn’t want to get sick.

Lisa Barry: So you got the vaccine and when did that happen?

Bear Bednarski: Yesterday.

Lisa Barry: Can you tell us how it was? Where did you go and what happened?

Bear Bednarski: Well, I went to the Meijer pharmacy and took this picture because it was exciting for me. And my arm that I got the shot hurts somehow now.

Lisa Barry: Mm-Hmm.

Bear Bednarski: But it’s fine.

Lisa Barry: Why was it exciting for you?

Bear Bednarski: It’s exciting for me because I didn’t want to get sick and to make my own whole family sick.

Lisa Barry: Hmm. So what would you say to other children your age or between five and eleven who might get the vaccine right now? Would you tell them to keep going? Do you think they should do it?

Bear Bednarski: Yeah, they probably should. I really don’t want anyone to get sick.

Lisa Barry: Cole, was it a difficult decision for you to have your son vaccinated?

Cole Bednarski: Oh no, not at all. Our families firmly believe in science and in protecting ourselves and our community. When we heard that children his age would have the opportunity to get the vaccine, we immediately started research to get it.

Lisa Barry: Did he see school at home last year when the pandemic peaked?

Cole Bednarski: He did. Ann Arbor public schools were virtual for most of the year. He went back when they had hybrid learning. This enabled him to spend time with his friends at school and work personally with his teacher for that time.

Lisa Barry: This pandemic and virus has presented so many different people with so many challenges. But I think about the children a lot. You see children with masks. And I wonder how much they understand what is really going on.

Cole Bednarski: Bear was – well, Bear always was – an incredibly observant person. But the pandemic has been very tough on him, he has just been empathetic and attentive in many different ways. He’s a very social person and he really needs that commitment with his colleagues. So it was really hard not to have it, and I’m pretty sure he’s met his parental leave quota over the year. He was as good as done with us. He said, “Let me go back to school.”

Lisa Barry: But do you feel that maybe this was a special time that one day you will look back and think, “Wow, we had a lot of time together when Bear was seven or eight years old?”

Cole Bednarski: Oh, absolutely. We weren’t an anomaly I guess. But when we found out that Ann Arbor Public Schools were going to be virtual, we actually bought an RV and traveled the country for three months. So Bear’s virtual experience was incredibly virtual because he’d be up a mountain in Montana at times to sign up for the morning briefing for school.

Lisa Barry: So you made the best of a not so great situation?

Cole Bednarski: We did our best.

Lisa Barry: Bear, here it is. The morning after vaccination at the age of eight. You say your arm hurts a little, but are you otherwise happy that you did it? Are you proud of yourself

Bear Bednarski: Yes.

Lisa Barry: Can you tell us a little more about why?

Bear Bednarski: I’m kind of proud because I’m proudest of the people who developed the children’s vaccine, for helping us. And it took us a lot of work to get in. I am proud of my family and myself that I got the vaccination.

Lisa Barry: Some people don’t want to get it. What do you want to tell them

Bear Bednarski: I’m saying they really should get it because my mom and dad got it before and it hurt a bit and then stopped and they’ve never had COVID since then. You really should get it.

Lisa Barry: Do you think that this will give you more freedom to play with your friends or be more in the world?

Bear Bednarski: Yes, it seems.

Lisa Barry: And, Cole, how do you, as a mother bear, have to feel at this time in this pandemic and the fact that he is now vaccinated?

Cole Bednarski: Oh, that’s a huge relief. We’ve been postponing trips for the past year and a half where we wanted to go to amusement parks or even funerals out of state because we just didn’t feel safe taking him anywhere where he could be exposed to so many people outside of our strain, the bubble . Knowing he’s so much closer to safety is a huge relief for many reasons, but mostly just for that peace of mind.

Lisa Barry: Eight year old Bear Bednarski and his mother Cole. Thank you for sharing this with us here on 89-1 WEMU.

Bear Bednarski: Yes.

Cole Bednarski: Thank you very much. We like to be here and help.

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– Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or by email at [email protected]

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