Ottawa health officials hope to put parents and kids at ease for the COVID-19 vaccine

Needles can be scary for children, so health officials in Ottawa are making plans for vaccination clinics, and the experience of getting the COVID-19 vaccine, to be as stress-free as possible.

And two days before the first doses will be administered to children, officials are offering tips for parents and children on what to expect and how to prepare for the shot.

When clinics across the city open on Friday to offer children ages five to 11 a COVID-19 vaccine, Ottawa Public Health will be ready to welcome families into a warm and caring environment. There will be posters and stickers for children, and perhaps even a lollipop. 

Public health nurse Katie Souliere has more than a decade of experience immunizing children and is helping to create the friendly atmosphere. 

"Fear not, there’s going to be lots there for kids," says Souliere. “We’re going to have a selfie station which has some vaccine superheroes you can take your child’s picture at and they can share with their friends."

When the time arrives for children to roll-up their sleeve, it may not be picture-perfect and Souliere has some advice to help quell kids worries.

"The parents do such a huge role and such a good job at keeping their child calm and comfortable," says Souliere. "For children who have a little more fear of the pain of the injection which only feels like a pinch don’t tell them it won’t hurt, say it will feel like a little pinch. Being honest is important."

Distractions are a good idea too. Kids can benefit from having their favourite stuffy, toy or blanket. Listening to music or watching videos on a tablet or phone.

Souliere also suggests that if your child is on the younger side of the age group, try not to tell them about the vaccination appointment too far in advance as it can cause added stress and anxiety. On the other hand, older kids can benefit from earlier notice.

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario has created a video with kids, for kids to explain the process of vaccination, as well as to provide coping strategies, as well as other resources for parents.

The COVID-19 vaccine for kids has arrived! Before heading to your appointment, check out these helpful vaccine tips FOR kids FROM kids just like you! pic.twitter.com/MBXZeYW9v4

— CHEO Ottawa (@CHEO) November 24, 2021

Children in the video list the three steps to getting a shot and answer some questions that they may have.

CHEO child life specialist Maryse Deslaurier can answer the questions, as well as provide other useful tips, especially for kids who may have a phobia of needles.

"Hand breathing, so you use your hand and you take a big deep breath in and you move your finger up your finger stop at the top for two seconds and you exhale and you follow your fingers all the way through," says Deslaurier. "At the end of it you’ve taken five deep breaths it’s helped you calm your body down it’s given you some time to regroup."

When it’s time for the shot, Deslaurier says to think about pizza.

“By the time you thought about all the favourite toppings you want to put on your pizza your vaccines over,” she says, adding this final tip. “Sometimes if you’re feeling scared it’s hard to do so you gotta celebrate that you did something that was difficult.”

So kids, be sure to get your treat when it's over.