Family Affair: Sisters Get the COVID-19 Vaccine Together

Three nurses on the front lines at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital share a moment of joy when they get their second dose.

The Scott sisters — Claudia, Christine, and Althea — are all nurses, following in the footsteps of their 82-year-old mother, Violet, who was a nurse for more than 40 years, and their eldest sister, Maxine. Beyond choosing the same career, the close-knit sisters have always done everything in lockstep. “My mother’s thing was always, ‘If you have no one else, you have each other, so you have to stick together no matter what,’” says Althea Scott-Bonaparte, the youngest of the siblings and a patient care director at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital.

After 10 months of being apart, battling the COVID-19 pandemic from their individual units, the three sisters who work at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital jumped at the opportunity to share in a big moment together: getting the COVID-19 vaccine. On December 18, Claudia, Christine, and Althea got their first dose together, and on January 8 they returned for their second shot. It was a moment of sibling revelry. “Since we do everything together, it stands that we should have this vaccine together,” says Claudia, a patient care director. “It feels like sunshine, shining through a cloud,” Althea says about getting the shots.

“Let’s Trust the Science”

The Scott sisters, who moved to New York from Jamaica with their parents in 1981, have been nurses for decades. But when COVID-19 hit, it brought challenges that they never could have imagined. In addition to caring for an influx of sick patients, they also needed to support colleagues and maintain their spirits during a time of crisis.

After making it through the first wave in the spring, they didn’t hesitate when the vaccine became available. “I don’t want this to be repeated in 2021,” Claudia says. “I want us to be able to say we’ve defeated COVID. It’s not impossible, but in order for it to happen, we have to trust what is out there to help us. So my sisters and I did this, not only for each other, but also to be an example. … Let’s trust science; let’s trust the evidence.”

The sisters understand the skepticism about a new vaccine, so they take the time to speak to friends, patients, and colleagues who have questions about the vaccines and how it felt to get the shot. They also want to be role models in their communities, especially encouraging people of color — who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 — to get the vaccine.

“As an African American woman, I have seen devastation in our community, and I want people to know it’s safe to do this,” says Christine, a critical care nurse. “I hope that by me doing this, I will be the example to my kids and my friends and our community, so they know that this is safe and this is something that we all need to do.”

Doing It for Mom

The sisters had plans to see Violet in Jamaica last March, but canceled their family trip because of the pandemic. Ordinarily Violet would live with Claudia for part of the year, but the sisters were fearful of exposing her to the virus, so she sheltered in place in Jamaica, away from close family and friends. The sisters haven’t seen their mother in more than a year.

One of the first things the three sisters did after getting their second dose was call Violet to share the happy news. The matriarch of the Scott family not only served as the inspiration for her daughters to become nurses, she was also the biggest cheerleader for the vaccine. “Once she heard that the vaccine was being released, she was so excited about that,” Althea says. “She was like, ‘Guys, please make sure you get it. Make sure you’re one of the first ones in line —and that’s what we’ve done.”

With the vaccines signaling a major step in protecting the sisters and helping control the pandemic, they finally felt ready to make plans to see their mother again — and get her vaccinated as well. “We said, ‘OK, Mom, we had our second shots. We’re planning on bringing you home,’ and she cried,” Althea says.

Because so many of their family members are front-line workers (Maxine’s daughter Richelle Powell is also a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital; Althea’s son Nicholas, is a pediatric nurse), they know there’s still work to be done. But for the first time they are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“No doubt, I still intend to wear my mask and my eye shield, and I still intend to be careful,” Althea says. “But the vaccine gave me this feeling of hope. You can’t keep walking through the dark. You have to look for that light. And this is the light for us.”