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Tracy Akitt holding a doll to demonstrate tips for vaccinating young children
McMaster Children’s Hospital child life specialist Tracy Akitt shares tips for children 6 months to 5 years old who will be receiving the COVID vaccine.
September 9, 2022

Vaccine preparation for children 6 months to 4 years old

Edited video transcript

My name is Tracy Akitt. I’m a child life specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Today I wanted to talk to you about having children under five years old immunized.

Recently, the COVID vaccine became available for children four and under and it’s important that we share a few tips on how to support that younger age group. I have a doll with me here today so I can show you a few things.

Pain management

The first thing to think about is what you’re going to do for pain management. There are a few options.

  • If you’re breastfeeding your child, you could choose to breastfeed before, during and after the poke. That in itself can be very comforting. Children feel close to the parent and they won’t choke on the breast milk so that would be a great option.
  • Alternatively you could give your child a little bit of sugar water or their pacifier about 20 seconds before the injection.
  • If they’re a little older — between about one and three years of age — it’s still ideal to have them with you and it would be better to have them sitting up. So you could have them sitting up beside you and then they would receive their poke in their arm.

Remain calm

During the poke, as the person caring for them, it’s important to remain calm. Children feel what their parents feel instinctively. So just take a few slow, deep breaths, provide a little bit of distraction, get it done and then give a lot of cuddles.

Numbing cream

In regards to where the vaccine will go and using any particular numbing creams that are available on the market, you can talk with a pharmacist or your family doctor about those products. They have to be put on 30 to 60 minutes before the injection. For children under one year of age, that injection is often given on the side of the thigh. This is important to know so that you put the patch or the numbing cream on the right location.

If the child is over one year then they will have their cream on their arm. Place the cream a little bit down from the shoulder, in that soft muscle part.

You know your child best

You know your child best. If your child is between three and five years of age, they may do well with using some of our tips that we give in another video on our website for supporting children over five for the COVID vaccine so be sure to check out that video. There is a lot of great information for you and your child to ensure that they have a good experience because having needles and getting injections is an important part of life and we want to be sure that we give them the best possible experience every time.

Thanks so much for joining us. Take care.

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