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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

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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).

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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.

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• 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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