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After unvaccinated family members get COVID-19, Thurston County mom urges people to get the shot

Kari Sutherland said two of her children, 18-year-old Evan and 11-year-old Leila, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. Neither of them were vaccinated.

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. — A family from Thurston County is urging those who are unvaccinated to go ahead and get their COVID-19 shot after two members of the family caught the virus.

Kari Sutherland of Rochester said two of her children, 18-year-old Evan and 11-year-old Leila, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. Her son was not vaccinated, and her daughter, Lelia, is not eligible to receive the vaccine at her age.

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is only available for people age 12 and up. Sutherland said the diagnoses were a wake-up call for the family. 

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"If you don't want to do it for yourself, at least do it for your loved ones, whether it's the elderly or the young, innocent ones," said Sutherland.

Sutherland said she was fully vaccinated in February because of her job at a long-term care facility. Her older daughter, Sierra, 18, also initiated the vaccine in early July. But Sutherland said her husband and 18-year-old son were at first hesitant of the vaccine and believes her son caught COVID-19 from a graduation party in their home.

"Once it hit in the house, my husband's like, 'I gotta go get it,'" said Sutherland.

Sutherland said her youngest daughter, Lelia, lost her sense of taste and smell, had a cough for days, and visited the hospital to monitor oxygen levels. The scare changed the entire family's minds about the vaccine and they're now urging anyone who isn't vaccinated to get it and protect children who can't yet get vaccinated.

"We thought it was a political thing," said Sutherland. "We were like, oh, it's a Biden, or it's a Trump thing. But it's not. It comes down to it, it's a real thing. It is happening, and if you don't vaccinate, it's going to be too late. You're going to be sorry."

According to data from the Washington Department of Health, 49% of Thurston County residents are fully vaccinated. The latest data shows 52% of the entire state is fully vaccinated.