Louisiana mom goes from QAnon believer to vaccine advocate

FAN Editor

An immunocompromised Louisiana girl whose mother went from COVID-19 denier to vaccine advocate was among the first children in her state to get vaccinated against the virus this week. 

Ella Conrad’s family couldn’t wait for her to be eligible for a coronavirus shot as the 10-year-old hasn’t played with her friends for a year and a half. That’s because she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 3 and takes medication that suppresses her immune system. 

After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old on Tuesday, Ella was thrilled to be among the first in line to get a shot.

“Oh my god, I have it in my body now, yay!” Ella told CBS News lead national correspondent David Begnaud after receiving her first dose.

The virus posed a serious danger to Ella, so her mom, former COVID-19 denier Stacy Conrad, has only allowed her to do individual activities since the pandemic started. Ella was already homeschooling because of concerns of how the flu would affect her. Coronavirus scared her even more. 

“It’s been real hard watching her struggle through this, so I’m real excited,” Conrad said.

In recommending a mini dose of Pfizer’s vaccine for children 5 to 11, the CDC said that every million shots given to young recipients would prevent about 58,000 cases of COVID-19 and 26 hospitalizations among those children. 

“I know that if my child gets COVID once she’s fully vaccinated, that her risk of having severe COVID is minimal,” Conrad said.

Conrad didn’t always feel that way. In fact, at the start of the pandemic, she didn’t believe in COVID-19 at all. 

“In the very beginning, I kind of believed the hype that it was a conspiracy,” she said.

Conrad began reading about QAnon conspiracy theories and grew skeptical about the threat posed by the virus.

“I believed that JFK was going to come back from the dead,” she said. “I wanted to believe what the scientists were saying. I wanted to believe what the government officials were telling us. I wanted to believe all of this stuff, but I also didn’t want to shelter my kid and keep her inside. So, I was trying to prove that it wasn’t so and hearing the QAnon conspiracies made it easier for me to not believe.”

At one point, when Conrad heard about a “Three Days of Darkness” conspiracy, it was her daughter who began feeling scared — and started sleeping in her mother’s bedroom.

“I was just terrified. I did not want to go outside anymore,” Ella said.

Conrad said she began to change her mind after a talk with her husband.

“Finally, one day my husband was like, ‘Oh, this is bizarre. Y’all, this is crazy,'” she said. 

She then started listening to doctors and following the science — going from a QAnon follower to a vaccine advocate for her state. Conrad now travels throughout southwest Louisiana educating people in underserved communities about the vaccine and even helps them book appointments to get vaccinated. 

“I decided to put my energy into what was real and what was in front of me… The facts,” she said.

Her most personal appointment yet is Ella, who got vaccinated alongside her friend Kiki, and Kiki’s brothers, Hudson and Cooper. Their dad is a doctor who’s been treating COVID-19 patients. 

“We want to get vaccinated so we can hurry up and have a sleepover,” Ella said.

Because of Ella’s compromised immune system, her doctor has said she probably will need four COVID-19 vaccine shots, instead of two, over a series of months so she is in a safe place. 

In Louisiana, children are also eligible to receive the same cash incentive that the state has been offering to vaccinated adults. So any child as young as 5 who gets a shot can walk home with $100. 

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