From left to right: Rhys Cannava, 16, Quinn Cox, 17, and Jolie Widaman, 16, are pictured here in Soldotna, Alaska on Thursday, April 15, 2021. The three Soldotna High School juniors got vaccinated against COVID-19 in March 2021. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

From left to right: Rhys Cannava, 16, Quinn Cox, 17, and Jolie Widaman, 16, are pictured here in Soldotna, Alaska on Thursday, April 15, 2021. The three Soldotna High School juniors got vaccinated against COVID-19 in March 2021. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

‘I didn’t want to be a spreader’

SoHi teens discuss living with pandemic, why they got vaccinated.

Almost 500 people between the ages of 16 and 19 have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough as of Friday, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Soldotna High School students Rhys Cannava, 16, Jolie Widaman, 16, and Quinn Cox, 17, are three of them.

During a sit-down interview with the Clarion on Thursday, the three explained their reasonings for getting the vaccine and spoke about what it’s like going to high school during the pandemic.

Each of them, who got their shots last month, said choosing to get vaccinated after the Pfizer-BioNTech was approved for people 16 and up made sense.

“I think it’s kind of important for somebody to take the first steps,” Widaman said.

Because Cannava, Widaman and Cox are under 18, their parents accompanied them to their first vaccine appointment. Widaman and Cox went in for their second Pfizer-BioNTech dose alone.

Dana Cannava, Rhys’s mother who also spoke with the Clarion on Thursday, said she wanted to get the vaccine before her daughter.

“I wanted to be the guinea pig,” Dana said. “At 16 I think she’s smart enough to … have an opinion. She still wanted to do it after I had my reaction.”

Dana also said she knows upward of five students who aren’t cleared to participate in school sports because of abnormal chronic medical conditions experienced after their COVID infections. She said she wanted to do anything she could to prevent that for her children.

All three Soldotna High School juniors are student athletes.

Jill DuFloth, who also took part in the interview, is Widaman’s mother. She said she wasn’t nervous about her daughter getting the shot.

“I guess I just kind of feel like there’s been a mom in my position, whether it was polio or measles,” DuFloth said. “There’s been somebody before us that did their part and now, those things, we don’t worry about.”

When both of Widaman’s younger brothers tested positive, DuFloth said, the family had to quarantine in separate areas of the house.

“We’ve been through it,” DuFloth said. “It was hard. We don’t want to go through that again.”

Cox’s parents were cautious about the vaccine, he said, and they wanted to know more about its effect on young people. Eventually, Cox said, they decided getting the vaccine was better than not. He said other people’s safety has always been his motivation for getting vaccinated.

“The percent of us actually getting (COVID-19) and then dying from it, very low,” he said. “But there’s always that chance. And even if it doesn’t happen to you, you can infect someone and that person was loved by someone. That was someone’s special person.”

Rhys Cannava said she also felt getting the vaccine was less of a risk than getting COVID.

“It doesn’t make sense to be afraid of the vaccine and not be afraid of COVID,” she said. “Both are a risk; it’s kind of which one’s a greater risk you’re willing to take.”

Widaman said she’s heard a fair bit of “irrational comments” about the vaccines at her school. She has studied the processes of viral transmission and immunization in some of her science classes, which made her feel more confident about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer shot, she said.

“I didn’t want to be a spreader. I think that’s a really important part,” Widaman said. “I have a family, and friends, and a team and everyone else that depends on [me]. I had a family member die from it, and so I wouldn’t want that to happen because of me.”

DuFloth said Widaman’s godfather battled the virus for two months before he died.

“You just can’t turn back the clock,” DuFloth said. “If the opportunity for vaccination had been there sooner, who knows. But we lost him.”

The three students said they hoped to have a normal senior year. Last year all three of the Soldotna High students missed out on their soccer seasons because of the pandemic.

Widaman said the lack of activities has had an effect on students.

“There’s just not very much enthusiasm for anything anymore,” Widaman said. “There’s no spirit.”

She said she is excited to do the simple things again, like just walking into a store without worrying about getting sick.

Cox is a member of the student council and hasn’t been able to plan assemblies or dances for a long time. Cox said he hopes he’ll get a senior prom next year.

Cannava is looking forward to having a normal senior year after enough people get vaccinated.

“You feel so helpless, like there’s nothing you can do,” she said. “You can’t fix it all by yourself, but the vaccine is the one thing that you could have control of.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

More in News

Megan Pike, Kenai Watershed Forum’s education specialist and Adopt-A-Stream program coordinator, wades into Soldotna Creek to dig up creek bed samples for a group of Connections Homeschool students to parse through for macroinvertebrate sampling, on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Summer camp registrations open at Kenai Watershed Forum

The forum canceled its summer events last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The entrance to the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska, photographed on Feb. 26, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Identity of Alaska Court System hacker still unknown

The system was able to restore email access Tuesday.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
State redistricting may take longer this year

State legislative districts are redrawn by a board of five people following the decennial census.

The badge for the Kenai Police Department
Man arrested in break-in at Kenai Central High School

The man, 36-year-old Christopher D. Stroh, allegedly stole miscellaneous items from the school on Sunday.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 2 new deaths as cases continue downward trend

DHSS reported 62 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a drop from over 100 reported a week ago.

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Southcentral Alaska at increased risk for ‘severe’ wildfires in future

A study from researchers across Alaska said that the region should expect future fire seasons comparable to 2019.

A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit flies over the Gulf of Alaska in support of Northern Edge 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps / Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)
Marines and sailors take part in largest joint exercise of 2021

Ships, aircraft, and 15,000 servicemembers all came together to hold the huge interservice exercise.

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left and Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, questioned Attorney General Treg Taylor about the administration’s approach to legal matters at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Alaska lawmakers confirm attorney general, department heads

Taylor was the only Cabinet-level appointee who generated debate among lawmakers meeting to consider Dunleavy’s nominees.

Alaska House Speaker Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican, looks out on the floor of the Alaska House on Monday, May 10, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. The Alaska House on Monday resumed debate on a version of the state operating budget. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, Pool)
Alaska House passes budget; dividend amount unsettled

The budget next goes to the Senate.

Most Read