Children Health

Smile through the shot: Librarians team up with health department for children’s vaccine clinic | Coronavirus

Getting a shot is never fun, no matter how old you are. So when the Frederick County Health Department started holding COVID-19 vaccine clinics for children between the ages of 5 and 11, the county’s public library system stepped in to help kids smile through the shot.

Employees for Frederick County Public Libraries were at the health department’s 800 Oak St. vaccine clinic Saturday with one clear mission in mind: Keep the kids smiling. To do that, library staffers came dressed as iconic characters like Elsa from “Frozen” and Darth Vader.

And since they came from the library, naturally, they brought plenty of books.

Heather Hart, children’s services supervisor at the Walkersville Branch Library, was dressed in an inflatable unicorn costume, which was the star of the show, with dozens of smiling eyes on her at all times.

Out of costume, Hart talked about how the FCPL and the FCHD came to their partnership.

“A colleague had the idea, and we thought, ‘Of course, what better way to help the community and the kids than to come out, provide a distraction and make fun,’” Hart said.

At about the halfway point during Saturday’s clinic, Hart said she thinks the librarians’ costumes and puppetry was working to get kids’ minds off the jab.

“They love it,” she said. “You wouldn’t even know that some of them had their shots.

“They spot the unicorn from across the room, and it’s full-on unicorn until the end,” she added with a laugh. “It’s much appreciated by the kids and the parents.”

Valentina Conte, a student at Lewistown Elementary School, was one of the kids getting vaccinated on Saturday. She described the process as painless.

“I was a little nervous, honestly,” she said. “But when I got it, it wasn’t that bad. It was just like a little pinch … It just went in and came out.”

Valentina’s mother, Alejandra Conte, said the process was quite streamlined.

“The process is very smooth,” she said, adding she has come to the same clinic multiple times, previously with an older daughter who was able to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier. “It all went the same, quick and fast … and since it’s for the kids, they have entertainment and characters, so it made the process more enjoyable.”

Conte said it was important to bring her daughter to get the shot.

“It’s a health issue, it’s not anything else,” she said. “It’s important for me that she be protected.”

According to Shawn Dennison, public affairs officer for the health department, getting kids in this age group vaccinated is vitally important to the immunity of the overall community.

“It’s essential; we’re talking close to 23,000 residents of Frederick County that are between the ages of 5 to 11,” he said. “Being able to set aside clinics for that age group is essential.”

Dennison said the FCHD will be having a dedicated vaccination clinic only for children each Saturday through December and occasionally on other days. Currently, in addition to the Saturday dates, the FCHD has a vaccine clinic for children 5 to 11 scheduled for both Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

Dennison said it is necessary to keep the children’s clinics separate from the other ones out of an abundance of caution, as children receive a lower dose of the vaccine than adults. Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one approved for this age group, Dennison said.

Anyone hesitant about getting the vaccine either for themselves or their children should talk with people who have already gotten the jab, Dennison said.

“The information is out there. The CDC, the health department, Maryland Department of Health, it’s all out there,” he said. “But what we tell people is talk to someone who’s been vaccinated, talk to someone who’s gotten their children vaccinated, talk to them a little about their experience, talk to them about the experience that led them to do that.”

Hart, meanwhile, recommended using the library as a resource for medical information.

“We are here to help find whatever resource or direct them to a contact if they have more questions, like the health department,” she said.

Follow Patrick Kernan on Twitter: @PatKernan

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