A Chula Vista teenager, who survived COVID-19, is now urging other teens and kids to get vaccinated now that younger age groups are eligible.
“I would say just get it because it offers peace of mind when you go to school. It's just a way to protect you and your family and your friends,” said Zakai R., who is now a high school freshman.
NBC 7 is honoring the family’s request not to use his last name.
Zakai, 15, is now fully recovered after contracting the virus last year during the holidays when he was 14 years old. At the time, COVID-19 vaccinations were not available for his age group. Several other family members also tested positive.
Zakai was quarantined in January, and was never hospitalized. But it was a difficult experience.
“The first three days were really bad. I had fatigue. I had a really bad headache. I was coughing. I had a knot in my throat,” said Zakai, who also lost his sense of taste and smell.
Zakai received the COVID-19 vaccine in June, shortly after the vaccine became eligible for his age group in May.
He now admits, prior to testing positive, he didn’t take coronavirus seriously. He thought it was a hoax, or a conspiracy of sorts, based on what he read on social media.
And when he did test positive, Zakai’s immediate reaction is what some might expect from an exuberant teen: He thought it was cool.
“I thought it was cool because, since we’re in a pandemic, I would want to experience what it’s like to have COVID-19, just to see if COVID-19 was real or not,” said Zakai.
Now, he sees it as a responsibility to share his story.
Zakai is featured on COVID-19 Survivor Diaries, a website dedicated to telling the compelling story of Coronavirus survivors.
“I was lucky, my symptoms were not as sever as many. COVID-19 is not a joke,” wrote Zakai in a personal testimonial.
Now, that younger age groups are eligible, Zakai is urging everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I want to change the way people think about COVID-19, so they can take it seriously,” Zakai said.