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Essentia Health child life specialists share tips for vaccinating 5-11-year-olds

Many Essentia locations ready to begin vaccinating children immediately


Following unanimous approval from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday evening officially authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 5-11-year-olds.

Children are now eligible to be immunized against the coronavirus.

Appointments are required for 5-11-year-olds and can be made with the child’s primary care provider or pediatrician. Patients can schedule through our MyChart patient portal or by calling (833) 494-0836.

Appointment availability will vary by location as vaccine is allotted and distributed; check MyChart frequently for openings.

The vaccine has been proven safe and effective for children. It is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals ages 12 and older (30 micrograms).


Clinics throughout the Brainerd Lakes area are ready to administer the Pfizer vaccine to all age groups, including 5-11-year-olds. They are also adding the following hours for COVID vaccination:

• Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Baxter Clinic (13060 Isle Dr): 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, excluding Thanksgiving; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26

• Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Brainerd Clinic (2024 S 6th St): 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 13 and Saturday Dec. 4

Anyone under the age of 18 must bring a consent form, signed by a parent or guardian.

Essentia Health child life specialists lend their expertise to help families make vaccination a comfortable experience. They offer the following tips:

• Be honest and use developmentally appropriate language when explaining shots to your child — saying “poke” vs. “shot” or “vaccine”; “getting medicine in your leg through a poke” vs. a shot or vaccine; and “it may feel like a small pinch” or “the medicine may feel warm” vs. “it will burn.”

• Play! For our younger children, playing with medical/doctor toys helps them process experiences, but also helps desensitize and familiarize them with different tools they may see during their clinic appointments.

• Talk about getting vaccines and come up with a plan at home to help prepare.


• Validate your child’s feelings/emotions regarding getting vaccines or previous experiences. Some kids are nervous and/or scared, and that’s OK. It helps us to know we should be developing a plan and preparing ahead of time.

• Give appropriate choices to allow them some control in the situation — for example, ask if they would like to watch or play a game on mom’s phone; if they want to blow bubbles; or maybe whether they would like to sit on dad’s lap or by themselves.

• If your child is anxious, practice some breathing exercises at home or pick a favorite distraction tool and/or comfort item to bring that can be used to help support you.

• Talk to your child’s medical provider and develop a plan. Is there an option to have a child life specialist present for distraction and support? Is “Buzzy” available for pain management? Buzzy resembles a bee and is used to numb an area of skin prior to injection via cold temps and vibration, confusing the nerves so that when the site is ready for a needle, the patient hardly feels it.

• Distraction tools include an iPad, smartphone, music, favorite toys, light-up spinner and more. Comfort items, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, also are effective.

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