Preparing children for COVID-19 flu vaccination
Mayo Clinic Health System joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in strongly recommending children ages five to 11 be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Parents and legal guardians of children ages five to 11 can now schedule COVID-19 vaccinations across Mayo Clinic. These vaccinations began Friday, Nov. 5.
“Tell the child about the appointment a few days beforehand, and talk them through each step,” says Jessica Wadium, certified child life specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System. “This allows time for them to mentally prepare and create a plan to help them cope. Surprise visits to the doctor can create unnecessary anxiety.”
Wadium says parents and guardians could use gentle wording when speaking to their children about getting vaccinated. An accurate, yet calmer way to say “shot” is to use the word “poke.” She says wording can be a powerful way to decrease fear and anxiety.
Other tips include:
• Use calming techniques during the injection. Coach children through deep breathing by “smell in the flower and blow away the petals.” Use bubbles or a pinwheel as a fun way to practice.
• Encourage children to relax their arm like Jell-O. Practice beforehand and try to make it a silly game to increase relaxation and relieve tension.
• Ask children if they prefer to watch or be distracted. Some prefer to watch because it gives them a sense of control. If children like to be distracted, try counting, listening to music, playing games on a device, or doing something else that works best for them.
• Use a comfort position. If children are still small enough to sit in a parent or guardian’s lap, having children’s chest to their chest or their back to a parent or guardian’s chest with arms wrapped around them helps decrease distress since the children are being held by someone they trust.
Parents and guardians also should prepare children for possible side effects, which are normal signs that their body is responding to the vaccine. Common side effects include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever or nausea. Mayo Clinic advises against providing pain relivers to children before they are vaccinated, as these may blunt their response to vaccination. If side effects develop, then pain relievers would be appropriate.
“Have something special planned for afterward to look forward to,” adds Wadium. “This can be something small and affordable, such as going to the park, that allows your child to think past the poke and onto the next step.”
Children should eat a good meal or snack, and drink plenty of water, before being vaccinated for COVID-19. Review additional information about COVID-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer vaccine, on mayoclinic.org.
“Most of all, provide calm reassurance that this is part of keeping them safe, and validate that, although getting a poke can be hard, they are brave and capable,” says Wadium.
Parents and legal guardians can prepare for their children’s vaccination by reviewing tips for what to do before, during and after the shot on the CDC website.
Mayo Clinic Health System patients in this age range who are eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been identified and will be invited to schedule an appointment through a Patient Online Services message or by mail.
Parents and legal guardians can schedule their children’s appointments to be vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 using their children’s Patient Online Services caregiver account or the Mayo Clinic App, or by calling Mayo Clinic Health System in southeast Minnesota at 507-434-9929.