'He was so excited': Cary woman reunites with brother after more than a year of separation, credits COVID-19 vaccine

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Cary woman who went more than a year without getting to see or hug her brother due to COVID-19 restrictions had him over for dinner last weekend.

Jennifer Chamberlain's brother, Ed is 45 and has Down Syndrome.

She has been restricted from visiting Ed at his group home in Greensboro until both of them were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ed got his shot in February, but Chamberlain had to wait.

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One week after the first COVID-19 vaccines started reaching long-term care facilities in North Carolina, families are eagerly waiting, hoping this will be a first step to reuniting with their loved ones.

After waiting the designated two weeks following her vaccine, she had him over for dinner in her Cary home on Saturday; that first embrace was captured on video.

"Seeing Ed walk up I mean, it just -- and he was so excited and that joy -- that true excitement in that video -- that's him," said Chamberlain. "That's him all the time. And that's what I've been missing for this past year-plus."

Ed has been able to visit outside the group home with their mother and stepfather, but thanks to CDC guidance advising the low risk of indoor gatherings among fully vaccinated people, Chamberlain got to spend the day with him in her own home.

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"Seeing Ed walk up I mean, it just -- and he was so excited and that joy -- that true excitement in that video -- that's him."

"I'm sure that I talked with him about other stuff, but it was just being able to sit across from him and see him right there and not on a computer screen," said Chamberlain. "It was wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful."

In January, soon after Chamberlain learned her brother would be eligible for a COVID vaccine, she said she was relieved.

Ed has the mental capacity of a 3-to-5-year old child; with their mom and stepdad as his guardian, they signed the consent forms to have him vaccinated, and if it were up to her, Chamberlain said she wouldn't have hesitated to do the same.

She credits perseverance and those vaccines for making their long-awaited reunion possible.

"I stand firmly behind that," she said. "And if they say I have to get a booster, I'm ready to put my arm up."
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