Families, kids delighted as 1st COVID-19 vaccines for young kids administered in Windsor-Essex

For families looking to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19, the wait is over.

Public health unit encourages parents to get their children vaccinated

Nine-year-old Lexington Pangilinan, bottom left, and Liam, 11, on the right got their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday. Parents Holly Guevera and William Pangilinan have two other kids who are not yet eligible. (Jason Viau/CBC)

On the day he was first eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, 11-year-old Liam Pangilinan of Windsor was delighted. 

"I'm most excited about going to my cousins' in the U.S. and seeing them again," he said, just ahead of his appointment. "I missed going to parties with them and spending time with them."

Liam's parents William Pangilinan and Holly Guevera were ready and waiting for a chance to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for their two oldest kids, who were some of the first to get jabbed on Thursday. 

"They've been talking about it even before they were allowed, asking when they can get it," said Pangilinan.

"Our family is from Michigan so we haven't been able to see some of them," said Guevera. "So when they found out they could get it they were very excited."

Liam's younger brother Lexington, 9, also went along with his brother to get vaccinated. The boys were two of about 33,000 children in Windsor-Essex newly eligible to receive the shot.

"I feel happy and not scared at all," said Liam, whose younger brother was a bit wary of getting a prick.

"I'm excited but nervous for the shot," said Lexington. 

WATCH | Jenna Smith, 10, shares her experience getting her first COVID-19 vaccine: 

Windsor-Essex kids line up for their COVID-19 vaccines

9 days ago
Jenna Smith, 10, tells us how her appointment went, after getting her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 0:44

Ten-year-old Jenna Smith from Amherstburg received her COVID-19 vaccine on the first day she could. For her, it was a step toward getting back to normal.

"I wanted to be able to go have fun and be a kid again," she said.

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old were administered on Thursday morning at the mass vaccination clinic at the Devonshire Mall.

Smith said staff inside the clinic were wearing costumes of characters such as Spider-Man, Cinderella and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

"It was really cool for all the kids, so they weren't scared," she said.

Eleven-year-old Oliver was the first person in that age group to get vaccinated on Thursday morning, according to a social media post from Windsor Regional Hospital, which runs the vaccination site.

Others are anxiously awaiting their turn after 20 months of living through a pandemic that has upended their daily lives.

Colin Ruggaber, 9, is receiving his shot on Sunday. He was born premature and has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, so his mom, Sheila, is relieved he's now eligible.

Colin had been asking for his vaccine for months now, so his mother decided to record his reaction to the news that he'll soon be getting his shot.

He expressed his excitement right away; "Yay!"

WATCH | Mom 'surprises' kids with a vaccine appointment they've been asking for:

Mom surprises kids with a vax appointment

9 days ago
Windsor mom Sheila Ruggaber filmed this video, surprising her son Colin and daughter Courtney with their first vaccine appointment. Colin, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, has been looking forward to a jab. 0:59

Jenn and Nick Hennin have an appointment on Saturday for their son Edwin, who is eight and has autism.

Edwin has thrived in a classroom environment but that also comes with the potential of COVID-19 exposure. Jenn said she's thought about what would happen if he got sick, given his challenges.

Edwin Hennin, 8, is scheduled to receive his COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday. (Courtesy the Hennin Family)

Nick said he will feel better knowing that if their son caught COVID-19 after being vaccinated, the outcome is very unlikely to be severe.

"That's the biggest thing. Keep him as safe as possible," Jenn said. "If he does contract it, we can fight it at home."

Public health encourages vaccination

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, the region's acting medical officer of health, said the shot is safe, effective and evidence shows the benefits outweigh any risk.

"We would encourage everyone who is eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated," he said on Wednesday.

Health Canada gave Pfizer's kids version of the product the green light almost a week ago, and appointment registration opened up locally on Monday. Those turning five in 2021 are also eligible.

As of Thursday morning, some appointment slots were available on Friday and as well as early next week, though Saturday, Sunday and Monday are currently full.

The mass vaccination site is located at Devonshire Mall in south Windsor in the former Sears location. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Officials with the public health unit said they have no concerns about supply and expect to have enough to meet the demand. 

Children five to 11 who are getting vaccinated must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. 

Families weren't the only ones who turned out Thursday morning. Several protesters were set up near the site.

Earlier this week, police said there will be officers present to "monitor and ensure public safety."

With files from Kaitie Fraser and Jason Viau

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