By Marcus Uhe
Primary school aged children between five and 11 have become the latest age group to be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination as of Monday 10 January.
The vaccination clinic at Cranbourne Turf Club was transformed into a forest-themed area with artwork and imagery of native Australian animals to make the experience more kid-friendly and ease any stresses that children and families had about the process.
Each vaccination cubicle at Cranbourne’s indoor facility is named after an animal, such as a kangaroo, turtle, koala and wombat, with the eager Monash Health staff welcoming the child and their parent or guardian to their appointment by referencing the name of the animal.
Bec McLochlan is the nurse manager at the Cranbourne Turf Club vaccination clinic.
She has been pleased with the turnout at the turf club in the early stages of the eligibility period.
“Our bookings were completely filled on day one, which was great to see,” Ms McLochlan said.
“We all know that they’ve (the children) had a tough couple of years with schools having to close down for periods of time, so it’s exciting to be able to start vaccinating that age group.”
Charlie and Max Paleologos received their first dose of the vaccine at the Turf Club on Tuesday 11 January in the ring-tailed possum cubicle.
Charlie, 10, had never received a vaccination of any kind before, and was apprehensive about the experience, but found it to be not as bad as he expected.
“I was a little bit nervous but it didn’t hurt as much as I thought,” he said.
Amanda Paleologos, the mother of Charlie and Max, said that her boys didn’t take much convincing.
“They were really happy to get it,” Ms Paleologos said. “(Max) was a bit scared but they were happy to get it, to get over the restrictions that we’ve had.”
Not only did they receive protection from severe illness but the boys received a showbag for their efforts, containing coloured pencils, a colouring-in book and a fidget spinner, to Max’s delight.
Following their vaccination they added a leaf with their name on it to the eucalyptus vaccination tree, which grows with a leaf from every vaccinated child.
Additonal measures taken by the clinic to ease stress for patients include Virtual Reality (VR) headsets which show calming visions of oceans and animals, which the patient can wear whilst the vaccine is administered in order to distract them.
For parents of children who have fears of needles and vaccines, Ms McLochlan recommended providing plenty of information beforehand.
“Try to explain what’s going to happen as much as possible, so that they’re aware, and make it as fun of an experience as possible, as much as immunisation can be,“ she said.
Children are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine with a second dose recommended eight weeks after their first.
The forest-themed vaccination centres have been setup at a number of locations across Melbourne including the Sandown Racecourse and the Frankston Community Vaccination Hub.
To book your children’s first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine
Bookings can also be made via the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 or via your local pharmacy or GP.