TORONTO - Kids in Toronto braved the rain and focused on future plans ahead of getting their COVID-19 shots Thursday as the vaccination effort for five to 11-year-olds ramped up in Ontario, while clinics in other provinces also doled out doses to young children.
Those lining up in on-and-off drizzle outside a north Toronto walk-in clinic said they were looking forward to safely having sleepovers and birthday parties with their friends again.
“It feels very good,” said Jack Thurston, 10, an hour into his wait for the shot. “I just want to get my vaccine and have a party.”
Jack's mom, Cathy Thurston, said his vaccination will mark a sea change in their lives after months of having to turn down invitations because of her unvaccinated children.
“We feel left out, in a way, having young kids,” she said. “It's hard, mentally. It's hard when all the older people in your life want to do get-togethers and things and we have to say no.”
Some families brought camping chairs to sit on while they waited outside the big-box store hosting the vaccinations. Others brought jump ropes to keep their kids occupied.
Harriet Francis Green, who said she is nine-and-three-quarters, was delighted to be at the clinic despite some car sickness on the ride over.
“I feel excited,” she said from behind a bedazzled mask. “It took forever to be vaccinated.”
Maya Polti proudly showed off the small round bandage on her upper arm on her way out of the clinic.
The nine-year-old said she had been looking forward to her COVID-19 vaccine for months, ever since her parents got their shots, and she said it lived up to the hype.
“It didn't hurt at all,” she said. “I'm excited to feel safe.”
Doses of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were also set to go into little arms in Wyoming, Ont., and at a clinic for Indigenous families and households in Hamilton.
A clinic hosted at a Windsor, Ont., shopping mall featured games, stickers and stuffed animals. Windsor Regional Hospital, which ran the clinic, said approximately 800 children were set to be vaccinated Thursday with “excellent turnout” reported shortly after 9:30 a.m.
More Ontario health units were planning to run child-specific clinics over the weekend and early next month.
Ontario opened bookings for pediatric vaccines on Tuesday, with a few early doses administered in Toronto later that day. Health Minister Christine Elliott said more than 100,000 appointments had been booked for kids since the provincial booking portal went live. That doesn't include bookings made through local public health units, pharmacies and doctors' offices.
Children elsewhere in Canada were also rolling up their sleeves as vaccine supply rolled in to more cities and towns.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, a St. John's clinic started offering jabs to kids earlier than expected on Thursday after doses arrived ahead of schedule. The health authority covering the provincial capital and surrounding area said it was working with schools in the region to finalize school clinic dates.
Quebec's health department said one-quarter of eligible children in the province had been registered for the shots, with 163,000 appointments made as of Thursday.
Dr. Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Montreal Children's Hospital, said vaccinating children could help head off a fifth wave of COVID-19, but it's important that parents are encouraged - not pressured - to get their kids immunized.
“We want to encourage families and parents to get their child vaccinated because I think there's enough of a benefit there that it's worth doing,” he said. “But at the same time, I think we need to acknowledge that families need to be comfortable and confident in their decision.”
Manitoba was also giving out giving out shots to kids in earnest on Thursday.
Eight-year-old Zooey Cecilio, who was one of the first 100 kids in Manitoba to be vaccinated, said she was a little nervous about the needle at first, but it was no worse than a flu shot.
“It was good,” Zooey said after rolling up her sleeve at a downtown Winnipeg vaccine super site. “It was just like a little pinch.”
Her dad, Carlo Cecilio, said he and his wife are looking forward to the “peace of mind” that will come when Zooey is immunized, and planned on celebrating Thursday night with a buffet dinner.
So far, about one-fifth of Manitoba's 125,000 kids in the five-to-11 age group have booked a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021.
-with files by Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg and Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.