Nfld. & Labrador

1st doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered to kids under 12 in N.L.

Joanna Gillen Mahoney and her husband Marc wasted no time booking a COVID-19 vaccination appointment for their two children under 12 years old. 

Fitzgerald says Public Health has already seen a high number of parents book appointments

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Ellie Mahoney, held by her father, Marc, on Thursday. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Joanna Gillen Mahoney and her husband Marc wasted no time booking a COVID-19 vaccination appointment for their two children who are under 12.

The St. John's family showed up to the clinic at Mundy Pond Road on the first day Newfoundland and Labrador started giving out COVID-19 vaccines to children — including Ellie and Thomas Mahoney.

"I hate needles but it doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would," said Ellie, the family's eldest child. 

"It felt the same as the flu shot," Thomas said, rubbing his arm. "I got scared at first but I felt better after I got it and now I am fine."

Gillen Mahoney said it was the right thing for her family. 

"We feel like we want to be as safe as we possibly can and we think that herd immunity is important and we want to get back to regular activities as soon as possible."

Thomas Mahoney puts on a brave face as Fitzgerald preps his arm prior to the COVID-19 vaccination. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The province has a high vaccination rate, said Marc Mahoney, but schools seemed like an obvious weak spot that can now be eliminated.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, spent part of her day administering shots to children under 12. 

"I hope [this] will be the last hurdle we will have to get through to really protect the population against COVID," she said. 

"We have really been looking forward to being able to vaccinate this group, to help kids get their lives back to normal, schools back to normal." 

Fitzgerald said she is optimistic about the turnout. On the first day bookings were available, she said, about 15 per cent of the eligible population made an appointment and Eastern Health has filled almost all of its appointments so far.

Fitzgerald said the province hopes to achieve 90 per cent vaccination of the five-to-11 age group. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

She said Public Health hopes to achieve a 90 per cent vaccination rate in children, but it will take time, as there will be eight weeks between doses for kids.

To book an appointment online, parents can use the online vaccine appointment portal or call the regional health authority. 

Details of the vaccination process in schools are still being worked out. It's up to each regional health authority to plan which schools will offer vaccines, and health authorities are expected have that information on their respective websites in the coming days.

Health Minister John Haggie has suggested it could be larger schools or schools in smaller, rural communities that are selected as vaccine clinics.

Parents will need to sign a consent form if they choose the school vaccination option, and they'll also get a letter from the school to notify them of possible dates.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn