Nicole Peterson, Emergency Department (ED) physician assistant at Carle Foundation Hospital (CFH), thought it would be helpful to have a book with pictures to explain COVID-19 and the vaccine for kids and make them feel like they are a part of the process. With two little boys at home who had many questions about COVID-19 and after talking about the vaccine with her oldest, Peterson knew what she had to do next.“Talking with my 5-year-old, telling him how the vaccine works to help the body make antibodies and drawing pictures with him to help him understand gave me the idea,” she said. “I thought about the pictures I could draw and read what I had out loud to myself and my kids a couple of times to make sure it made sense.”
When the book, “France and the Vaccine,” was all laid out, it was just a matter of Peterson figuring out how to publish it.
“I chose to publish it independently so I could get it out there,” she said. And by doing that, the book was ready in early November, which was perfect timing as children ages 5-11 got the green light to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Peterson’s son Theo got his first dose the first weekend it became available.
“Francine is a young girl about to receive her first COVID-19 vaccine,” Peterson said. “She’s nervous about it as most kids are, but her parents have told her the story of how the vaccine works to generate immunity within our bodies. Francine’s excitement about making a difference in the pandemic and helping prevent illness in herself and her community outweighs her fears. She feels like a superhero in the end and feels proud to be helping in the fight against COVID-19.”
Peterson got the idea for the title because Francine rhymes with vaccine. As for her illustrations, if Francine's pose looks a little like Rosie the Riveter, Peterson took inspiration from Melissa Huston, DO.
She enjoys drawing and occasionally will do some artwork for her family or paint ornaments. Writing a children’s book wasn’t really on her agenda, but she’s learned a lot from the process and had fun doing it.
“I would love to do another book and the artwork, but don’t have anything specific in mind,” Peterson said. “With Francine, I wanted to help empower kids in this process. Over the past year and a half, so many things have happened that are out of our control. I wanted children to feel like they’re active participants in this fight and can make a difference. I hope that in understanding how the vaccine works and the impact they’ll have, the fears of getting a shot will be overshadowed by the sense that they, too, are superheroes in this pandemic.”
Working in the ED at CFH, Peterson has seen firsthand what COVID-19 can do to people.
“I strongly urge, for those who can get the vaccine, do it,” she said. “Do it for your family. The risks of the virus far outweigh the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
As far as feedback on the book, some of Peterson’s coworkers got a glimpse of it before it was published.
“I let some of them read the story before I got too involved,” she said. “I wanted to make sure it sounded OK, and I wasn’t missing anything. One of my fellow PAs even checked my grammar and punctuation for me. I got a lot of good feedback.”
So far on Amazon, several customers have given the book 5 out of 5 stars. The book is also available for purchase locally in Champaign at The Literary and online at Bookshop.org and Barnes and Noble.