Manitoba

Winnipeg's St. Amant Centre hosts specialized COVID-19 vaccine clinic for kids

Families with children who have developmental disabilities and autism were treated to a tailored vaccine clinic at Winnipeg's St. Amant Centre on Saturday.

Clinic open to everyone, but focused on children with developmental disabilities and on the autism spectrum

St. Amant Centre held a specialized vaccine clinic on Saturday geared towards children with developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum. (Submitted by St. Amant)

Families with children who have developmental disabilities and autism were treated to a tailored vaccine clinic at Winnipeg's St. Amant Centre on Saturday.

The clinic featured stress-reducing tactics like snacks, cartoons, games and quiet spots to help calm nervous kids while offering nearly 60 doses.

While the clinic was open to anyone wanting a shot, Sarah Van Mackelbergh, the supervisor of volunteer service, says the day was centred around the children's needs.

"Families who've experienced disability have a ton on their plate already," she said.

"If they know that getting a vaccine is going to be stressful, knowing that they're going somewhere where they are ready to embrace challenging behaviour with flexibility, and are prepared to really be creative and patient just removes one potential barrier to getting a vaccine."

Therapy dogs were one of the most popular draws at the St. Amant Centre's vaccine clinic on Saturday. (Submitted by St. Amant)

For children with a lot of anxiety or who are sensitive to sound, there were quiet private rooms where they could get their shots.

The therapy dogs were the biggest hit, though, Van Mackelbergh said.

"We have puppies pretty much the whole time, coming in and sitting with kids while they're getting their vaccination — and that can be from start if you're nervous, just walking up to get your vaccine or while they're getting their vaccine, or after while they're waiting their 15 minutes," she said.

"Just offering a few different ways to support somebody when they're coming in for something they're already nervous about."

Public health officials have said they are prioritizing children's comfort when dealing with those aged five to 11.

Even so, Van Macklebergh says some families trust St. Amant and would rather go there for the vaccine.

"The supersites and pharmacies, they're awesome. We just also know that people, they trust us and they know what to expect if St. Amant is something they're already familiar with," she said.

St. Amant held their first specialized clinic on Nov. 26, when they vaccinated more than 170 children.

They have plans to hold another clinic in the future so children can get their second doses in the same reduced-stress environment.

With files from Laissa Pamou

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