First 5 to 11 year olds get their shots Friday
The first of Alberta's roughly 391,000 kids aged 5 to 11 got the jab today, a significant milestone in the effort to immunize the population.
Parents were able to book the appointments on Wednesday as the paediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech were being distributed to immunization centres across the province.
"It felt like a pinch," says Hannah, a seven (and a half) year old who got her first shot at the Brentwood clinic Friday. "It didn't hurt that much."
The shots were being given out at four immunization centres in Calgary and another six in surrounding communities.
Kids' parents say the shots are a chance to expand their daily lives.
"It's one step closer to being back to normal for us," said one mom in Brentwood. "We've spent almost two years at home and trying to keep others safe."
Another mom says she's kept her kids homeschooled out of an abundance of caution. The shot means a return to class.
"We have younger kids who are not vaccinated, so it won't change everything in a big way just yet, but it does mean a return to in-person school for her," says Jessy Roos.
For kids who turn five in the coming weeks, parents can not book appointments until the child's birthday has passed, even if the appointment date is after that date.
Health Canada approved the shot for kids last Friday. It is the same as the adult version, but is only one-third the dose. Millions of doses have already been administered to kids worldwide. Health Canada says the shot is more than 90 per cent effective in kids and shows no significant side effects.
TIPS FOR MAKING KIDS COMFORTABLE
Alberta’s Pfizer vaccine rollout for children age five to 11 years old is underway and the province is providing resources to help make appointments as comfortable as possible.
“Over 60 per cent of kids have a fear of needles, and the good news is there’s lots of evidence-based ways to reduce pain and stress,” Laura Rayner with Alberta Health Services told CTV Morning Live on Friday.
AHS has released its ‘Commitment to Comfort’ initiative, with five main principles, to help parents and caregivers better prepare for their child’s appointment.
Rayner says the first step is to make a plan.
“Kids don’t really like surprises and they tend to be better when they know what’s coming and know what’s happening,” she said.
During the appointment, Rayner says it’s important the child is in an upright sitting position. If they’re young, kids can sit on an adult’s lap in a bear hug or straddle position. For older children, caregivers can sit beside them and hold their hand.
Children can also bring their favourite stuffed animal or blanket to their appointment. To help distract them, AHS says devices will also be allowed so they can listen to music or watch a video.
“With kids specifically in this age group, they have an incredible imagination, so just tapping into that,” said Rayner.
Another tip: the use of positive language.
“We know what we say around kids can really impact their experience of immunization,” said Rayner.
“(Tell them) they’re really doing a good job taking their deep breaths or they’ve done a really good job relaxing their arm.”
Rayner said making the first experience as positive as possible is also important for the following dose, about eight weeks later.
“That’s what they will remember for the next time,” she said.
AHS also suggests using numbing cream, which can be picked up at a pharmacy prior to an appointment.