Across the country, children ages five to 11 will roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days.
Alberta’s chief medical officer for health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Alberta’s implementation plan will be released Tuesday.
Alberta Health said doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children have not yet reached the province, but are expected to arrive very soon, possibly Tuesday.
Alberta Health added that it is “hopeful that parents can reserve vaccines for their children later this week.”
“The pandemic has obviously had a huge impact on everyone,” Katie Birnie, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, said Monday.
“I think the opportunity to be able to offer some of the protections to children that has been given to teens or adults is something that a lot of parents are excited about.”
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But with this also comes a certain nervousness for several children.
“About 60 percent of children in this age range have some fear of needles,” Birnie said.
“Some of them can be very mild, a little nervous, a little hesitant, but for about 5 to 10 percent of the population, it is quite severe. We could even consider it to be something called needle phobia where they actually have a very real anxiety response. “
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said there are about 390,000 children in Alberta between the ages of five and 11.
While parents won’t know the full implementation plan until Tuesday, Alberta Health has confirmed that children will be vaccinated for the most part at Alberta Health Services clinics, not doctors or pharmacies, and some parents are concerned. by the impact.
“We are grateful regardless that vaccines are here, and we would like to see that hopefully AHS will expand to pharmacies and doctor’s offices in the future just to make sure there are no barriers that we can easily overcome with a distribution a little broader, ”said Calgary mother Heather Moore.
“People are already more reluctant to vaccinate their children. Let’s not make it more difficult by simply making it harder to get to or more difficult to book. “
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Alberta Health said the rollout will be on a much smaller scale and is “best managed through dedicated AHS clinics as primary providers,” according to AH spokeswoman Lisa Glover. “In addition, the vaccine has a different dose and formulation, so all personnel handling it should be oriented in this regard.”
“We appreciate that some parents prefer to work with a pharmacist or physician, but the smaller scale of implementation of five to 11 is not a good option to manage through more than 1,400 pharmacies and hundreds of doctor’s offices in addition to AHS clinics. . Glover said.
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Moore said she understands that logistics can be a concern, but she is also concerned about what that means for her son’s experience.
“My son’s anxiety will not improve if he waits in line for his appointment and will probably hear other children anxious and crying, and we want the experience to be as positive as possible because we want them to come back for their second date. too, ”said Moore.
How can parents prepare their children?
Preparing children for the vaccine is about communication, Birnie said, adding that for most children, you can use simple pain management strategies.
She advises parents to talk to their children before the appointment: “Don’t tell them while driving to the clinic parking lot.”
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She suggests devising coping strategies with your children and deciding what works best for them.
Birnie said they could include things like listening to music while in line or playing a game on a phone. She advises having a plan for when the time comes for the needle.
“That distraction, that smartphone, playing games, talking to mom or dad or the immunizer about fun things they can do can help.”
For younger children, she suggests sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap with the father hugging the child to help them feel more comfortable.
Parents can also opt for measures to minimize the sensation of the needle, such as putting on an anesthetic cream before the vaccination appointment.
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But the job doesn’t end as soon as the vaccine is finished.
“Talk about what went well and celebrate!”
“Go out and buy a donut, a smoothie, an ice cream, or something fun,” advises Birnie. “Focusing on what went right can also help you get better next time … and we know it can help with pain and distress down the road.”
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For that small percentage of children who have needle phobia, Birnie said more planning and preparation will likely be needed for children to get vaccinated. She suggests reaching out to a healthcare professional to discuss next steps.
She said needle fears tend to start around preschool, so most parents of children in the five to 11-year-old age range should already know if their child is very afraid of getting vaccinated.
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