Therapy Dogs, Comic Books Key to Successful Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccine For Kids

Photo: (Photo : PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images)

The presence of therapy dogs and the appeal of free cookies, toys, or comic books are just some of the ways vaccination sites across the U.S. are conducting a fuss-free rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for kids.

Micaela Inglese, who has volunteered at the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in New York, told Today Parents that therapy dogs are the "perfect distraction" for the children. These trained animals help "ease the nerves" and make the vaccination more fun. 

In Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington, D.C., therapy dogs are also a common sight at the vaccine clinics. Mom Jessica Mabie, whose seven-year-old son got his COVID-19 vaccine for kids, said that the therapy dogs provide a "friendly face" for the children lining up to get their shots. Dog mom Kimberly Fryer, who is part of D.C.'s Children's National Hospital animal visitation and therapy program, said that her trained dog, Barney, gives children a sense of control and comfort for something as nerve-wracking as a vaccination.

"The kids may not have a choice whether they're coming in to get the vaccine," Fryer said. "But they can choose where they want Barney to sit or to lay across their lap while they're getting [the shots]," the trainer added.

Read Also: Matthew McConaughey Clarifies Stance on Vaccine Mandate for Kids, Believes Vaccines Can End Pandemic

Safer with the Dogs

Sharon Cohan, who founded Vax Together Austin, said that the children feel safer holding the therapy dogs next to them during their vaccination since "shots are a little scary" for the young ones. Her group has also prepared plush toys, puppets and fidget items to appease the children's anxieties. They've been giving away free cookies as a reward as well.

Vax Together Austin collaborates with the Austin Independent School District and Walgreens for the weekend COVID-19 vaccine for kids program in this Texas city. Their focus is among children in underserved communities.

Jean Kenney, 7, said that her 15-minute experience waiting in line to get her COVID-19 shot has been wonderful since she's a dog lover. Meanwhile, her mother, Sarah Cavanaugh, said that they are grateful their youngest member of the family has been vaccinated right before the holidays so they could have that "extra safety", especially around Jean's grandparents. 

At the University Health System vaccination hub in San Antonio, six-year-old therapy dog, Laddie, as well as eight other animals, including a cat, have been helping the children feel less intimidated by the jabs. However, there are also medical professionals who talk to the children and their parents if they have some concerns before proceeding with the vaccination.

Hortencia Castano-Urbanowiez, the director of the University Health System said that the response to the therapy dogs and the vaccination program as a whole has been positive. Laddie's trainer, Mark Oholendt, on the other hand, said that he and his dog both loved getting involved with the program as volunteers because helping out is always a rewarding experience.

Jill Biden Brings Comic Books

Meanwhile, First Lady Jill Biden has been going around various vaccination sites in Houston with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and a couple of superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman. According to ABC News, the White House has partnered with DC Comics and Warner Media to distribute comic books to the children.

Jeff Zients, the coordinator at the White House said that they have estimated nearly one million have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine for kids during the first week's launch. An additional 700,000 have pending appointments at the vaccination hubs, while more sites will be activated in the coming weeks.

Related Article: Children Who Get COVID-19 Shots To Be Paid Cash, Receive Other Incentives From These Cities

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