Manitoba government launches kids immunization campaign

As vaccinations are now underway for kids between the ages of five and 11 in Manitoba, the province is launching a campaign for the vaccine.

"Manitoba's #ProtectMB Kids campaign will help ensure children and families feel informed, welcomed and supported," said Health and Seniors Care Minister Audrey Gordon said in a news release.

Marking the campaign on Thursday, six children in the province received their first dose of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said cases of COVID-19 have been climbing in this age group.

"I encourage all parents and guardians of younger children to visit our website, talk with your health-care provider, and to use the helpful tips we are making available so that immunization will be a positive experience for your child and a decision the kids can take pride in," said Reimer in a news release.

Around 25,000 parents have already booked appointments for their children.

Health Canada said the vaccine is 90.7 per cent effective at preventing COVID.

Dr. Jared Bullard, who is a pediatrician, was on hand for the campaign launch as his son was one of the children getting their first dose of the vaccine.

He said it is important to prepare kids before they get the shot to help alleviate any anxiety about needles.

"Parents know what is best for their children and in general I suggest a day or two of notice. Talk with them about the vaccine and let them ask questions," said Bullard.

He added he understands why some parents may want to wait before registering their kids, but he recommends setting targets for when they should eventually sign up.

"Take your time, think about it, but have very specific criteria that you want to use. Whether that's a certain number of children vaccinated, it could be in a certain timeline and feel free to always ask your physician or health-care provider about the COVID vaccine."

Nine-year-old Ava Meconse said the shot wasn’t that bad.

"I just kept telling myself that it wouldn’t hurt and it didn’t," she said. "I want to keep my parents safe and my grandparents safe, like I don’t want to get my granny sick."

Of the first six kids vaccinated Thursday, there were no tears.

"Just a small pinch for like a second and then it's over," said 11-year-old Donovan.

"I just closed my eyes and it felt the same as the flu shot," said Zooey Cecilio who also had this advice for the other Manitoba children who are getting vaccinated soon.

"I think that they should be brave."

Nala Larson and her dad Scott celebrated the moment with their special handshake which is reserved for special moments.

“Every time I do something awesome,” Nala explained.

“We have a really large family and we haven't been able to be together as a large family for almost two years now because of COVID-19," said Scott.

He said he diligently read reports on the vaccine before the family made its final decision for getting Nala vaccinated, and he encourages other parents to do the same and make an informed decision.

"I know that kids don't end up in the hospital all that often but there's many other effects of COVID-19 that don't require hospitalization that are risks to children of her age and so that's why we wanted to get this done," he said.

The vaccine for this younger age group is one-third the dosage of the vaccine for older people. Kids will still receive two doses and they will be given eight weeks apart.

Vaccines can be booked online or through the province's call centre at 1-844-626-8222.