COVID-19: How this London, Ont. vaccine clinic is welcoming kids

Senior manager of COVID-19 vaccine clinics for the MLHU Tracey Gordon holds up a 'look and find' chart, which is one of several distraction tools available for kids at the Western Fair District Agriplex clinic. Andrew Graham / Global News

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says things are going according to plan as it looks to shield the little ones from COVID-19.

Officials shared the update during a tour of its kid-friendly vaccine clinic at the Western Fair District Agriplex on Friday, which began doling out shots to those between five and 11 years old last week.

Read more: COVID-19 — Middlesex-London Health Unit begins doling out shots to kids 5 to 11

As of Wednesday, the clinic has seen more than 3,500 kids pass through for a shot and that number jumps to 4,500 when including all MLHU clinics, according to officials.

Stress-relieving plush toys and stickers are made available for children at vaccination stations in the kid-friendly clinic at the Western Fair District Agriplex. Andrew Graham / Global News

The check-in area is still a familiar sight at the clinic, but a new addition can be found in a “look and find” chart provided to children receiving a shot. Available in several languages, these charts task kids with finding various stickers posted throughout their vaccine journey.

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The clinic also includes stress-relieving plush toys and vaccine pods with unique designs, all intended to help kids stay occupied during their time at the clinic.

A number of pods also contain curtains, providing a more private experience for those with sensory processing sensitivity.

While it usually takes about 30 minutes for an adult to pass through the vaccine clinic, families often take about 10 minutes longer as MLHU staff work to provide a more kid-friendly experience.

Tracey Gordon, a senior manager for the MLHU’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics, says they’ve received a warm reception from families.

“We’ve had some families that stated their children were quite concerned about coming and getting a vaccine, and by the end we even had one parent say, ‘I can’t get them to leave,'” Gordon said.

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“We have noticed from our previous experience with flu vaccine clinics, where we didn’t have this type of atmosphere set up … that these clinics are going much smoother.”

Appointments have been filling fast, as the MLHU expected, but Gordon says there’s been a recent slowdown for December bookings.

She says this may be due to families being occupied with other activities during the holidays, but the MLHU is expecting bookings to ramp up afterward.

Gordon says the MLHU has held off on setting up vaccine clinics in schools for now, with the reasoning being that December is such a busy time with the holiday break just around the corner.

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In January, the MLHU plans to expand its child vaccination reach with mobile clinics that target communities with lower vaccination rates.

“What we found earlier on in the campaign was that the mass (vaccination) clinic sites were the best site to start. Once we got through the majority, we then shifted our staffing and resources into the mobile setting,” Gordon said.

Read more: COVID-19 — Booster dose bookings to begin Dec. 13 for those 50+ in London-Middlesex: MLHU

About one-third of vaccine appointments are full at the moment, meaning there is still plenty of space available for families looking to book a shot, according to Gordon.

The Agriplex operates seven days a week between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. A clinic at the Caradoc Community Centre in Mount Brydges also operates during the same hours, but only on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For the month of December, a walk-in clinic is available at Masonville Place. Gordon says the north London mall has administered just over 300 shots in its first two days of operation.

More details on COVID-19 vaccine clinics in the region can be found on the MLHU’s website.

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