When I received my first dose of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, the exhaustion hit me like a gust of mid-winter wind. I was so tired, I retreated to my bedroom to sleep for about sixteen hours straight, waking only to eat soup and watch the occasional British costume drama. 

While not everyone experiences side effects after a COVID jab, many of us do. These side effects are your immune system’s response to a shot; they can range from a sore arm, to a few days of lethargy and headaches, or, in very rare cases, blood clots. These vaccines are medical miracles that have the power to inoculate you against COVID, reducing a person’s risk of developing a severe case of the virus and passing it on to others. The shots are well worth it, but can make your life unpleasant in the days following a jab…

Personally, I was in no place to look after my toddler the weekend after my first dose. Luckily, I have an understanding partner who was able to work from home. He happily did all the childcare and housework while I recovered, but not everyone has that privilege. That’s why feminist lawyer, researcher and author Rebecca Jaramko created the Vax Childcare Sisterhood, an Ontario-based initiative that connects parents recovering from side effects of taking COVID vaccines with free childcare, so they can rest up and feel better without worrying about their kids. 

“We know the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately negatively affected women with childcare obligations,” says Rebecca Jaremko. Indeed, women’s participation in the workforce has reached record lows in Canada. Significant numbers have been laid off due to the ongoing economic crisis. Others have left their jobs to care for children whose schools and daycares have closed, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the Ontario government’s disastrous recovery plan.

Jaremko doesn’t want to see parents sacrifice their health the way many have sacrificed their careers. Things are particularly dire for primary caregivers without live-in partners or family to assist them. For these reasons, Rebecca worried some parents might forgo COVID shots altogether, wary of the ways possible side effects might interfere with their parental duties. Jaremko transformed her concern into the inspiration for Vax Childcare Sisterhood.

So what sort of babysitting is on offer? Jaremko encourages people to use her network to find childcare arrangements that suit them best. That could look like a babysitter (wearing a mask) helping your kids with their homework in your living room. It could also take the form of a childminder escorting a kid to a nearby park for a couple of hours. To reduce risks of COVID spread, The Sisterhood recommends outdoor childcare arrangements where possible.

Like so many families, Rebecca has experienced considerable parenting challenges since the pandemic began in 2020. “My marriage ended during the lockdown, and I am very aware of the social isolation that people are facing,” she shares. As a mother of four, Rebecca knows it’s easier to raise a family with support. “I have always relied on my village of women throughout my parenting experience, so I decided I needed to be there for others and to try to organize support for people who need it.”

To access free post-vaccine childcare, or to provide childcare for a parent in need, please sign up on Vax Childcare Sisterhood’s website.