Demand was high on the first day of the mass vaccination campaign for children between five and 11 years old in Quebec, and many parents described feelings of relief about finally getting their younger children protected against COVID-19.
The Kececi family could not wait for their 11-year-old son Karan to get the COVID vaccine, and were among the first to book an appointment when they became available Tuesday morning.
Karan said he was nervous going in, but his fears quickly went away.
“It felt like nothing,” he said after his shot.
His mother said Karan was the last member of their family to be vaccinated.
“It’s been a very difficult one or two years for everybody,” said Ayse Kecici. “It’s just a relief to have him also vaccinated in our family.”
Karan was just one of over 100,000 kids across the province who made appointments as soon as they opened up on Tuesday.
“So far the demand is high,” said Dr. Paul Le Guerrier, a Montreal Public Health doctor who is coordinating the vaccination campaign.
“Yesterday I was told there was something like 400 appointments per minute in the province.”
Not all of the 500 children getting their shot at Palais des Congrès on day one were quite as nonchalant as Karan.
Some younger children screamed and cried in fear as they got their shots, but the vaccinators came prepared.
An emotional support dog named Bemol was present, and sat on the lap of Ali Al Fallugi’s son as he got his shot. The boy was totally distracted.
“My son didn’t even notice that he’d been given the vaccine, actually, so that was just perfect,” said Al Fallugi.
Le Guerrier said the whole setup at Palais des Congrès is organized to put kids at ease.
There are pictures of unicorns and other creatures on the walls, stickers given out after shots, and Where’s Waldo-type images shown to kids to distract them while they’re being vaccinated.
“Honestly, I think it’s been great,” said J-F Benson, as his two daughters were getting vaccinated.
Eleven-year-old Mika-Ella Varin was happy to get the shot so she can travel again.
“I wasn’t able to go, like, on vacation a lot,” she said, explaining she was looking forward to going back to New York City. A few other families with young children talked about being able to travel to their home countries in Europe again.
Public health officials are more excited about limiting outbreaks in schools.
“We know right now, there are a lot of outbreaks in schools,” said Le Guerrier. “Children have to be isolated, the brothers and sisters have to be in quarantine, the parents have to miss work. Getting children vaccinated is going to be good for all of those psychosocial issues.”
Le Guerrier says the smaller dose kids get should lead to less side effects compared to the adult dose, that it’s safe and 91-per cent effective protecting children from COVID-19, and that getting this age group vaccinated is the next step toward putting the pandemic behind us.