Mascots, stickers and balloons greeted 5-11 year olds on Children’s Immunization Day in Toronto
If you went to the Scotiabank Arena Children’s Mass Vaccination Clinic on Sunday, alone or with a police escort, such as some families did, you will find a warm and welcoming environment designed to make children feel comfortable.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the area immediately outside. It was cordoned off by barriers and police cars. Officers on bicycles or on horseback sped and trotted along the border, trying to keep protesters at bay.
For the second time this year, the downtown arena has been transformed into a vaccination clinic. All of the fanfare of its latest iteration has been kept, including the awards, music, and appearances of Carlton the Bear and the Raptors mascot. But special care has been taken by the team in Toronto and its partners this time around to make the experience fun for children aged five to 11 who get vaccinated.
When the children entered, they were greeted by the Paw Patrol mascots, who were given “superhero passports” (booklets to fill in with stickers marking their passage through various checkpoints in the arena. , such as screening, registration and vaccination), and walked through balloon arches to their vaccination posts. Along the way, they could pick up plastic firefighter hats.
Joe Cressy, Chairman of the Toronto Board of Health, has been helping plan the event since early October. Standing on the arena floor, surrounded by Sick Kids medics and nurses, some dressed up as unicorns or superheroes, he told The Star that seeing it all come together was a “deeply moving experience.”
“It’s deeply moving because they are young children, and going through what can be a scary experience, like getting a syringe, and doing it in a way that makes people feel good, safe and positive is quite meaningful. “, did he declare.
“And this is a sign that the pandemic will end, as the eligible population (for vaccination) increases, which means our overall protection is increasing.”
Cressy said Team Toronto wanted to make the clinic as accessible as possible, which is why in the afternoons and evenings they offered walk-in appointments. Children from “more than 30 neighborhoods across the city” were transported by bus, through a partnership with the TTC and community ambassadors.
“We are trying to make sure that children from all corners of the city can participate in this,” he said. “We want children to go back to their communities to say how positive the experience of being immunized can be. “
Dr Julia Orkin, a pediatrician and physician responsible for Integrated Community Partnerships with Sick Kids, said many considerations have been taken by her and other staff to make vaccinations as universally child friendly as possible.
“There is a special low stimulation area for children who may have behavioral, developmental or physical constraints,” she said, referring to a few closed sections. “We want them to continue to have fun, to receive the gifts and to feel that they are part of it all.”
Cressy and Orkin discussed how, for some families, allowing your child to be vaccinated may be a more difficult decision than getting the vaccine yourself.
“There are a lot of myths that kids don’t get sick from COVID, so if you think getting them vaccinated isn’t important, we see some hesitation,” Orkin said. “But unfortunately children get sick with COVID-19. Some end up in intensive care, or seriously ill, or with long-term symptoms. “
Orkin encouraged any parent to consider whether their children need any vaccines to contact their doctor, Toronto Public Health, or the Hotline for sick children.
After taking their photo, the children were asked to complete coloring pages while they waited for the 15 minute observation time to pass. At any time, they could meet and pet one of the therapy dogs brought by St. John Ambulance wandering around the arena.
Khloe Postico, 10, and her sister Sofia, 7, both had just got the shots, which they said went well, and were wearing their fire hats, which they said was rather cool.
Asked about their favorite time of day, Sofia said she knew she would be “safer” now. Khloe said that hasn’t happened yet – she’s been eagerly awaiting the loot bags with candy and snacks everyone gets when they exit the arena.
But going out meant facing dozens of protesters across the street and venom coming out of their speakers. Cressy said the Toronto team needed to take extra security measures this time around to separate them from the gates.
“If you’re going to scream at a kid you’re the bottom of the barrel,” he said. “We have taken all possible measures to ensure that the types of protesters at the bottom of the barrel do not interfere in what is a remarkable and positive experience for thousands of children.”
And so it was, for a final tally of 1,536 children, or nearly one percent of Toronto’s population aged five to 11.
Cressy punctuated his remarks by pointing to a little boy running through the arena in Superman outfit, cape in the wind, having fun. It might have been weird outside, but inside the Scotiabank Arena the vibe couldn’t have been brighter.