'Just a little pinch': Manitoba kids get some of province's 1st doses of pediatric COVID-19 vaccine
More than 25,000 appointments for kids age 5-11 booked in Manitoba as of Thursday afternoon
Juice boxes and kid-friendly stickers were at the ready as a group of Manitoba kids were among the first in the province to get the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.
Among them was nine-year-old Ava Meconse, who was relieved to be a step closer to keeping people around her safer from the illness.
"I don't want to get my granny sick," she said, drinking a juice box after getting her first dose at Winnipeg's RBC Convention Centre.
And as a powwow dancer, the Grade 5 student said she's looking forward to a day when she won't have to wear a face mask at events anymore.
Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 last week. The pediatric shot is one-third of the dose used for older people.
Manitoba's first appointments for the age group were initially scheduled for Thursday, but 72 more spots opened up on Wednesday when doses arrived earlier than expected.
Ava's mom, Renata Meconse, said her family had already been talking about vaccination for months.
"She understands a lot about it, I think, because we've talked about it and prepared her," Renata said.
Nala Larson, 6, said she didn't think the vaccine clinic was so bad — it was actually kind of like going to the dentist, she said. And as for the needle itself?
"It was kind of just a little pinch," the Grade 1 student said. She even got to snack on a cookie afterward.
Scott Larson, her dad, said he's looking forward to their big family being able to all get together again as more Manitobans get vaccinated.
But for now, he and Nala are settling for a trip to the mall: a reward for his daughter after her first dose.
"I told her she could do whatever she wanted afterward, and she's going to take me up on it," he said.
'Hope and optimism'
Ava and Nala were with four other kids who also got their first doses after a provincial news conference at the convention centre about the pediatric vaccines on Thursday.
"I hope you feel very proud of yourselves for taking good care of your health and for protecting others," Health Minister Audrey Gordon told them.
"You are brave and you're smart leaders and that's why you're here today."
A provincial spokesperson said over 25,000 appointments for kids age five to 11 have been booked in Manitoba as of Thursday afternoon. There are about 125,000 kids in Manitoba in age group.
WATCH | Take a look inside the vaccine clinic for kids:
Dr. Joss Reimer said she knows parents who were stressed by the wait for their young kids to become eligible for immunization.
"I celebrate the hope and the optimism that this day brings," said the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force.
Dr. Jared Bullard's son, 11-year-old Donovan, was also among the kids who got vaccinated on Thursday.
"Donovan, like a lot of kids, is not the biggest fan of needles," said Bullard, a pediatrician at Winnipeg's Children's Hospital.
But in the time it took for Health Canada to approve a vaccine for kids his age, Donovan was able to watch his parents, aunts and uncles — and his 14-year-old sister — get immunized against COVID-19. On Thursday, he was excited to be next.
"It lessens the chance of spreading it to other people. It lessens the chance of getting more severe symptoms," Donovan said.
Bullard encouraged parents to give their kids notice a day or two before getting the shot. When their turn comes, he recommends steps like distracting them from the needle with a story and getting a prescription for numbing cream if needed.
Reimer suggested parents who still have questions about getting their kids vaccinated talk to a trusted health-care provider like a doctor or pharmacist, or visit the province's vaccine website.
"Every parent wants to do what's best for their child. The challenge is sometimes it's hard to know what's best," Reimer said.
"In the case of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine, fortunately, it's not as hard to know what's best.… We have the research telling us information that has been proven without significant doubt.
"Based on all the evidence available to Health Canada, the vaccine is safe and effective for children in this age group."
Bullard encouraged parents who are taking a wait-and-see approach to think about what would make them feel comfortable about immunization for their kids.
"Take your time. Think about it, but have very specific criteria that you want to use … whether that's a certain number of children vaccinated [or] a certain timeline," he said.
"Think about what would help convince you that this was an appropriate step for your child. And then write those questions down and set an appointment with a health-care provider to answer them."
It's also important to consider whether your child is more at risk of getting seriously ill if they get COVID-19 and what getting back to normal could mean for them, Bullard said.
"When I talked to Donovan about what he's looking forward to most today about getting the vaccine, the first thing that came to mind was he can go to restaurants with his friends and get back to playing hockey without interruption."
With files from Alana Cole and Tyson Koschik