Vaccinations for Covid-19 have finally been approved for children ages 5 to 11, and many parents are in a rush to get their kids immunized before the holidays.
“The demand is very high and pharmacists are much-needed to provide vaccines,” said Maria Lopez, PharmD, said in a recent NCPA webinar on pediatric Covid-19 vaccinations. Lopez is the founder and president of Mission Wellness Pharmacy in San Francisco, California. “Without community pharmacy, the healthcare system including pediatrician’s offices and physician’s offices would be overwhelmed. They can’t do it without us.”
Last year, a federal directive gave pharmacists in all 50 states the ability to administer vaccinations to kids as young as 3, but community pharmacy staff members might still have some reservations about performing pediatric vaccinations.
Use these tips from the NCPA webinar to get kids in your community vaccinated with fewer tears.
Tactics for painless pediatric vaccinations
Getting a shot is stressful for everyone, but it can be especially stressful for kid patients. These tips will help soothe your stressed-out pediatric patients and make administering Covid shots a quick, painless process.
1. Be quick
“Speed is key,” Lopez emphasized. The aim is to get kids in and out as fast as possible because the longer they are waiting around for their shot, the more anxious they will be. “Children tend to get more anxiety than adults.”
2. Vaccinate on a full stomach
Before the vaccination appointment, communicate with parents that their children should be fed, hydrated, and well-rested. “This is particularly important for morning appointments,” Lopez said, because children are more likely to come in on an empty stomach in the morning.
If a child hasn’t eaten or is dehydrated, they could faint, which will put a damper on the vaccination.
3. Be calm and confident
If your staff doesn’t usually give pediatric vaccinations, they might be anxious about administering them. But it’s critical that staff members present themselves as calm and confident despite any personal worries. Patients will recognize when the person administering their vaccine is nervous, which will only increase their anxiety.
4. Follow situational cues
Let the parents and the kids set the tone for the vaccination appointment. Start off the appointment by speaking to both the parent and the child, but if a child doesn’t want to talk to you, respect that.
Younger children may also benefit from sitting on their parent’s laps, and if a child is especially nervous or squirmy, you may need to get a second staff member in to help keep the child still.
“Be patient, because there are going to be times when it doesn’t work out,” Lopez said. Although most pediatric vaccinations will go off without a hitch, occasionally a distressed child might need to come back with a different parent and try again later.
5. Use relaxation techniques
Avoid words like “shot,” “needle,” and “hurt,” while administering pediatric vaccinations. Recommend that kids look the other way so they don’t see the needle.
Instruct children to take deep breaths and demonstrate deep breathing for them. Lopez says to tell children to “relax their arm like spaghetti,” and explain that the vaccination will be quick and feel like a pinch or a prick.
6. Provide distractions
While administering vaccinations, there are a few ways you can distract kids and prevent them from panicking. Ask them to tell you about their favorite sports teams or their dog.
You can also recruit parents to help in the distraction effort. Parents can hold a colorful pinwheel or shake up a snowglobe for kids to look at during their shot — if you are doing vaccinations outside, Lopez notes that blowing bubbles is often a big hit.
Parents can also help by reading a book or singing a song with their child.
7. Create a child-friendly space
Decorate your vaccination space with kid-friendly decor like sports logos, puppy pictures, or Disney characters. Lopez said that her team went to the party store and picked out some Paw Patrol decorations. These additions give kids something to look at while they are getting their shot.
You can also have your staff wear smocks and scrubs with animals or holiday themes on them.
After they’ve gotten their vaccine, use a colorful kid’s bandaid to cover the injection site and reward patients with a sticker or piece of candy. Lopez said, “These are all things that don’t cost much but will really add to your pediatric program.”
Train your staff with kids in mind
The proper training can get staff members get more comfortable with administering pediatric vaccinations.
Since some kids might be squirmy, administering the Covid shot could turn into a two-person job. “Train staff on how to hold a child still to make sure they are not moving,” Lopez advised. Staff working with kids should focus on keeping kids calm to make the process easier.
Also put protocols in place to decrease potential errors. Since the vaccine for kids under 12 is a different concentration, you need to have clear communication about which vaccines are for kids and which are for adults to make sure everyone gets the right formulation. The vaccine for kids comes with an orange cap, so Lopez suggests adding orange markings to the boxes and bags that carry the drawn out syringes as well.
Take the vaccine show on the road
With the demand for pediatric Covid-19 vaccines so high, now is a great time to take your immunizations outside the pharmacy and into the community.
Lopez recommends reaching out to schools and other civic organizations to set up off-site vaccination clinics.
For sites who are hosting clinics, Lopez recommends:
- Reaching out to clients with families to let them know about the event
- Providing a room with tables and chairs (cafeterias, auditoriums, wide hallways, gyms, and outdoor spaces are good candidates)
- Providing water and snacks, especially for morning events
“We have an online site that has information about documentation,” Lopez said. Clinic hosts can go to the site to gather all the forms patients will need to sign and have them ready for the event.
Bring privacy screens to the location if you have them, but you can also improvise by using items that are already at the clinic site, like rollaway chalkboards or projector screens.
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