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In August 2021, readers searched the Snopes website and sent emailed questions in regards to a false internet rumor that the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to critically ill children, would only grant wishes to children who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The rumor was spread via a copypasta meme that circulated on social media. Here is an example of a misleading post on Facebook that went viral:
“This is literally a new low for humanity,” the text of the above meme reads. “Terminally ill children will not be granted a wish.. from the make a wish foundation… unless.. you guessed it.. they’re fully vaccinated.”
The source for this rumor is the misrepresentation of a video announcement posted on June 9, 2021, by Make-A-Wish, in which the organization’s CEO, Richard Davis, announced that it was loosening some of the safety measures undertaken amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This included resuming, as of Sept. 15, 2021, the fulfillment of wishes that require air travel and large gatherings, in consultation with public health and medical professionals.
The resumption of these activities, for the time being, includes requiring those participating to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“All wish participants, including your wish kid and any siblings, will need to be two weeks past completion of either a one-dose or a two-dose vaccine,” Davis stated. “While we won’t ask for proof of vaccination, we’ll ask that any adult participant to sign a letter of understanding that certifies that they and any minors participating in the wish are vaccinated and understand the risks of traveling at this time.”
Davis acknowledged that the situation isn’t ideal. As of this writing, only children aged 12 years and older are eligible for the vaccine.
“We understand that this change affects many families whose children aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, and also know that there are families who aren’t ready to get the vaccine, and we’ll respect everyone’s freedom of choice,” Davis said in the video.
Davis also said that the steps being taken “represent the start of our return to normal, and that because of the pandemic, international travel and cruises are still on hold.
In other words, Davis said that in the midst of the pandemic, the foundation, which serves critically ill children, has been taking safety measures to protect those children. While that means some children won’t be able to travel or participate in events or activities that involve crowds, that doesn’t mean unvaccinated children won’t be granted wishes.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation published a statement countering viral rumors. The key portion of the statement reads:
Make-A-Wish has not, does not and will not deny wishes to children who are not vaccinated. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Make-A-Wish has safely granted over 6,500 wishes to children and families – regardless of vaccination status. Make-A-Wish will continue to grant wishes to children who are not vaccinated.
It is important to note that Make-A-Wish serves children with critical illnesses. Children do not need to have an end-of-life diagnosis to be eligible for a wish. In fact, most children we serve are able to manage, and even overcome, their illnesses and view the wish as an important part of the healing process. Spreading misinformation around the types of children who are eligible for a wish is harmful and hurtful to wish children and families.
The vaccination policy does not apply to any child who has received an end-of-life prognosis.
Make-A-Wish will not require anyone to get vaccinated to get a wish. We respect everyone’s freedom of choice. We understand that there are many families whose children aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, and we also know that there are families who are choosing not to get the vaccine.
There are many other wish options for children who do not currently meet the requirements for air travel and events involving large gatherings. The list of wish possibilities is as expansive as a creative child’s imagination, and it includes road trips to national parks, spending time with celebrities, outdoor playhouses, shopping sprees, staycations, wishes for pets, computers, and room redecorations.
CDC. “COVID-19 Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/adolescents.html.
COVID-19 Wish Updates: Air, Train, Bus Travel & Large Gatherings. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T8eCqsgzxs. Accessed 31 Aug. 2021.
Make-A-Wish Counters Misinformation: Vaccine Policy. https://wish.org/news-releases/vaccine-policy. Accessed 31 Aug. 2021.