WATCH: Can Hamilton parents prepare their child for the COVID-19 vaccine? McMaster Children’s Hospital expert explains

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Published November 23, 2021 at 5:20 pm

In a video posted by Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to YouTube, Tracy Akitt, an expert at McMaster Children's Hospital takes viewers through the child COVID-19 vaccination process using a mother, Jenny, and her daughter, Charlie as examples.

Now that Ontario has expanded its COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those born in 2016 and earlier, many parents may be wondering whether their child’s experience will differ from that of an adult.

“Ice, distraction, and comfortable positions are key to promoting a safe and positive vaccination experience for kids,” says McMaster Children’s Hospital child life specialist Tracy Akitt.

In a video posted by Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to YouTube, Akitt takes viewers through the child vaccination process using a mother, Jenny, and her daughter, Charlie as examples.

“Most importantly parents… ensure your child has something on that will enable the person who’s vaccinating to clearly see the upper part of their arm,” says Akitt.

She recommends that the child wear a t-shirt or tank top underneath their jacket. Akitt then says that the jacket should be removed as soon as the child enters the clinic.

“That way you’re not fussing and taking care of that when you actually sit down with the vaccinator,” she says.

In the video, Charlie is positioned on her mother’s lap. They are facing one another at first, but the child is then able to turn her head to face away from the vaccinator.

“Mom has her hands around Charlie,” Akitt says. “Not too aggressively but just there just to help her hold still because the most important part is holding still.”

Charlie is shown facing an iPad that has been set up on the table so that she can be distracted by her shows.

Akitt highly also recommends bringing an ice pack from home.

“The beauty of ice is that it numbs the skin not only on the surface but a little bit deeper, which is so helpful; especially if people don’t like the sensation of an injection,” she says.

“Most youth when I support them in the clinic with using ice, don’t even know that the injection itself has taken place.”

Akitt says the intent is not to trick the child but to have a realistic expectation of what children can handle emotionally. Children are also looking ot their caregivers for cues on how to react to the vaccine.

“One other tip I’d like to give parents through this process is to realize that children respond the way you respond,” she adds. “So if you’re you’re talking about your fear or concerns about having needles in front of your child they’re going to pick up on that. And it will probably make them anxious or worried as well.”

“If you’re afraid of needles, it might be better to have a friend or a grandparent or someone else bring them to support them,” Akitt says.

Hamilton Public Health Services says it’s prepared to vaccinate the 42,000 local children eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

“The vaccine strategy was built in consultation with McMaster Children’s Hospital, local child life specialists and community partners,” according to the local public health service.

Family-friendly clinics will be set up at LimeRidge Mall and the Centre on Barton. There will also be mobile pop-up vaccine clinics and pharmacy clinics.

Appointments can be booked at hamilton.ca/GetYourVaccine.

The Hamilton health care partners have administered more than 882,000 doses of COVD-19 vaccine to date, with 86 per cent of eligible residents receiving a dose and 82.9 per cent fully vaccinated.

De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre (DAHC), Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg, and the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre (HRIC) are hosting Indigenous COVID-19 vaccine clinics for first, second, third, and booster doses for Indigenous population and non-Indigenous household members.

These clinics are available to Indigenous populations ages five and older by booked appointments only: aboriginalhealthcentre.com/covid19info.

In-school COVID-19 vaccine clinics are available to HWCDSB and HWDSB students, families, and staff in each school community — plus eligible students from elementary feeder schools.

Individuals born in 2009 and earlier who are eligible to receive a first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can walk in to any of the below clinics.

Individuals ages 5 to 11 years of age require a booked appointment: hamilton.ca/GetYourVaccine.

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