Claire McKinley, 7, first picked out a Band-Aid with Elsa from the movie “Frozen.” She got quiet and nervous as the nurse at the Colorado Springs clinic started to rub her arm with an alcohol wipe on Saturday. Then while Claire coughed 10 times into her elbow toward her little brother, Reece, 5, the nurse gave Claire her first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In Colorado and nationally, people 18 years old and younger make up 25 percent of all COVID-19 cases. The vaccine was tested in more than 3,000 children in the 5 to 11 age group and so far, no serious complications have been detected. It’s proven to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.
“We got vaccinated. It made sense to get them vaccinated,” Claire’s mom, Libby McKinley said. “To limit spread and hopefully having them stay in school — those types of things would hopefully help us move past this pandemic. It's not perfect, but it's one thing we can do.”
The family were at the WIC clinic in southeastern Colorado Springs for their vaccines — it’s close to their home. The clinic was held in a medium-sized room with dividers between tables where nurses were set up with gloves, Band-Aids, suckers, computers and vaccines. Through a doorway to the next room, which is an open area surrounded by cubicles where WIC employees work during the week, there were cartoons playing on a TV for kids to watch while they were monitored by a nurse.
After Claire got her shot it was Reece’s turn. He picked out a Band-Aid with baby Yoda from “Star Wars” and coughed while he looked at his sister.
“Distraction works really good,” said Cathey Smith, the nurse who gave the children their vaccines on Saturday. “Actually, this is my first day of doing vaccines with kids, but I had seven children. So I've had experience with all behaviors and all personalities. And some kids you can talk to and then other kids, you just go and give it to them and have their parents hold them.”
Afterward, the kids went to a nearby dry erase board to draw the characters on their newly acquired Band-Aids while their mom got her booster shot.
“I sort of knew it was happening because I've had them like the flu shot except I've had them on my leg before and not my arm. So that was different,” Claire said. “It was different because I usually get a sticker. And this time we got a sucker.”
Some kids at the vaccine clinic cried and squirmed in their parents arms, but for the most part, kids were excited to do their part to fight the pandemic.
“It's because it helps me,” said 8-year-old David James. “It helps my body build the army that can protect me from getting COVID.”
His mom, Liz, thought of an analogy of a castle and training soldiers to protect the castle against COVID-19 as a way to explain how the vaccine works to her kids.
“We just all have to do our part and this is our one small part that we can do to help fight the virus,” she said. “Hope that it doesn't mutate some more.”
David’s little brother, Kai who’s 5-years-old, said it only hurt a little.
“I only squeezed a little bit,” he said.
Their older sister, Jada, who's 10-years-old, also got the vaccine that day. She was looking forward to getting ice cream afterward but was nervous about feeling sick. Her mom reassured her that they will spend the weekend taking it easy watching movies. Liz also got her booster shot during the appointment.
The WIC clinic is in the southeastern part of Colorado Springs and is a trusted source for families to access public health services, according to the El Paso County Public Health Department. The vaccine event served hundreds of children and caretakers over the weekend.
“One of the things that we are focused on is removing barriers and increasing easy access to the vaccines,” said Michelle Beyrle, a public information officer with the department. “We know we have a large county, both in terms of population and geographical size. And so there's really convenient points wherever you live, wherever you work, play that you can stop in and get a vaccine.”
Next weekend, the state’s mobile vaccine unit will be at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs offering vaccinations for all age groups, which Beyrle is especially excited about. The zoo will offer a discount on same day admission for families who get vaccinated.
Gov. Jared Polis set a goal to vaccinate half of 5-to-11 year olds by the end of January, there are about 480,000 people in this age group. Vaccination events will be held at hospitals, some schools and in mobile vaccination units throughout November and December. For more information on where to get your child vaccinated, visit the state’s website.
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