Our hospitals are under pressure. Please be patient with us as wait times may be longer than usual. Read more.

Hamilton Health Sciences Home
child pointing at a bandaid on her arm where she got her vaccine
A local 10-year-old shows off her COVID vaccination. The MCH Child Life team has designed a “passport” to help make vaccination a positive experience for kids.
February 18, 2022

Preparing kids for a positive vaccine experience

For many kids, getting a vaccination is a new experience, which can generate a variety of emotions – anticipation, nervousness, fear, excitement.

The Child Life team at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) works with kids every day who are having new experiences in the hospital. They recognize the challenge of these experiences and have many ways to help them cope. One tool is a series of “passports” to help kids navigate the steps of a procedure or test. The passports outline the step-by-step process and yes, they include stickers for kids after each step.

“When we were preparing to assist the COVID-19 vaccination clinic when the vaccine was first approved for kids, it only made sense to create a passport for the vaccination process,” says Jenny Cooke, child life specialist at MCH. “It’s especially important to prepare kids in the 5 to 11 age range since most of them have never experienced getting a vaccine before.”

A positive distraction

vaccine passport front vaccine passport back

Parents can use the passport to go over each step in advance, allowing them to create a coping plan and determine which steps may be hard for their child based on their reaction to the information. For kids, the passports help them feel more prepared and can act as a positive distraction, allowing them to focus on the sticker received at each step instead of the step itself.

Download the MCH Vaccine Passport to start preparing your kids.

Set kids up for success

headshot of Jenny Cook, child life specialist

Jenny Cooke, child life specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital

“We want to make the first experience a positive and rewarding one,” says Cooke. “It allows the child to build on the experience and hopefully promote long-term coping and confidence for future healthcare interactions.”

For kids in the 5 to 11 age range, having a positive experience with the COVID vaccine will set them up for success for the routine vaccines they’ll need when they’re 12.

Even if it isn’t a first experience with a vaccine, or needle, preparation is still an important step for kids. Their ability to understand routine medical procedures can change over time so a new coping plan may be needed.

To book a COVID-19 vaccination for your kids, please visit Hamilton’s Public Health booking website.

If a child, teen or young adult needs extra support for their COVID-19 vaccination, you can call 905-521-5044 to book an appointment with Extra Support Clinic offered in partnership with McMaster Children’s Hospital and Hamilton Public Health. These appointments offer a private, low stimulus environment, with a longer appointment time to enable a child life specialist to assist children and youth (ages five to 25) in coping with their poke.

For more tips and resources on child vaccination, visit the McMaster Children’s Hospital child vaccine resource page.