Jennifer Kletke and her daughter Ashlynn, after the nine-year-old received a vaccination against COVID-19 Friday at an AHS clinic at Westerner Park. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)

Jennifer Kletke and her daughter Ashlynn, after the nine-year-old received a vaccination against COVID-19 Friday at an AHS clinic at Westerner Park. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)

Central Alberta children start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Red Deer

Parents give many reasons, including wanting to protect their kids from illness and to travel

A registered nurse from Red Deer was among the first to bring her child in for a COVID-19 shot on Friday when a vaccination clinic for five to 11- year-olds opened at Westerner Park.

Jennifer Kletke said she wanted her nine-year-old daughter to get vaccinated because “I very much trust in the scientific process.” Vaccinated people can also keep others safer, because there’s a lower risk of spreading the sickness, she added.

Her colleagues who work at Red Deer hospital’s intensive care unit told Kletke how busy they have been trying to keep mostly unvaccinated COVID patients alive. “We know the vaccines have good effects,” she said. “The numbers speak for themselves…”

Trust in Alberta Health Services experts is also why Craig Nelson brought his younger son in for an inoculation to a clinic accessed from the rear of the Westerner Park complex (near the RV park). He said his older boy, who’s 12, already received a shot.

“It’s about herd immunity,” explained the Innisfail man, who believes the health care experts who say vaccinations are the only way to end the COVID crisis. “We want to get through the pandemic and this helps them be protected,” added Nelson.

Other parents had more specific reasons for bringing their kids to the AHS clinic for vaccinations.

Tyler Harrold, of Red Deer, said he got his five-year-old daughter inoculated because she has grandparents, friends and other family members that she wants to see, and there will be less worry about transmissions.

“It was the best for everybody,” added Harrold, who noted that most meetings with grandparents have, so far, been held outdoors.

Travel was why Nicolette Hume, of Red Deer, took her 11-year-old grandson for a shot. Her daughter lives in the U.S., and Hume said the whole family wants to be able to cross the border.

According to the Alberta Health website, kids under age 12 make up the largest number of new COVID cases in Canada.

Tens of thousands of Alberta children have been scheduled for vaccinations, although bookings only started on Wednesday.

Dr.Mohammed Mosli, central zone chief medical officer of health for AHS, said children’s clinics are only being held in Red Deer at this time. But if there’s enough demand, AHS will look at rolling out clinics to outlying communities.

“We want to ensure accessibility,” he added.

Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccination for kids age five to 11 on Nov. 18. The vaccine requires two doses of 10 micrograms each — one-third of the dose for adults. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending the two doses be spaced eight weeks apart.

Although most COVID-19 cases in children are milder than in adults, Mosli said there have been incidents of youngsters getting very sick and having long-lasting symptoms or complications.

Children can also spread the virus, even if they don’t have symptoms, exposing vulnerable friends or relatives. And scientific experts say each infected person gives the virus a chance to mutate and become more resistant to treatments or vaccines. “Fewer infections mean less chance of dangerous variants,” says Alberta Health’s website.

Mosli hopes there will be a large uptake on vaccinations for children age five to 11. “It’s up to parents to decide… the vaccine is safe and effective” as shown in Pfizer and Health and studies. The Canadian Pediatric Society is also recommending that eligible children be vaccinated.

As with any health procedure, there could be minor side-effects, said Mosli. A sore arm or fever “are signs that their immune system is responding.”

AHS has launched a new COVID-19 immunization for children webpage – Its Commitment to Comfort webpage has information about how to prepare for immunization (tips for parents to prepare kids, but also tips for anyone that might be a little nervous).

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