TORONTO — Kids and parents braved the rain, cold and needles Thursday in Toronto as the COVID-19 vaccination effort for the five-to-11 age cohort ramped up, with clinics across the country starting to offer kids their first doses.
Those lining up in on-and-off drizzle outside a north Toronto walk-in clinic said they were looking forward to safely having sleepovers and birthday parties with their friends again.
“It feels very good,” said Jack Thurston, 10, an hour into his wait for the shot. “I just want to get my vaccine and have a party.”
Jack’s mom Cathy Thurston said his vaccination will mark a sea change in their lives after months of having to turn down invitations because of her unvaccinated children.
“We feel left out, in a way, having young kids,” she said. “It’s hard, mentally. It’s hard when all the older people in your life want to do get-togethers and things and we have to say no.”
Some families brought camping chairs to sit on while they waited outside the big box store hosting the vaccinations. Others brought jump ropes to keep their kids occupied.
Harriet Francis Green, who said she is nine-and-three-quarters, was delighted to be at the clinic despite some car sickness on the ride over.
“I feel excited,” she said from behind a bedazzled mask. “It took forever to be vaccinated.”
Maya Polti proudly showed off the small round bandage on her upper arm on her way out of the clinic.
The nine-year-old said she had been looking forward to her COVID-19 vaccine for months, ever since her parents got their shots, and she said it lived up to the hype.
“It didn’t hurt at all,” she said. “I’m excited to feel safe.”
Doses of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were also set to go into little arms in Windsor and Wyoming, Ont., and at a clinic for Indigenous families and households in Hamilton, Ont.
Child-friendly clinics were starting to pick up steam in Ontario days after bookings opened. Some early doses were administered earlier this week following the shots’ Sunday arrival in Canada.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said more than 100,000 appointments had been booked for kids since the provincial booking portal went live on Tuesday. That number doesn’t include bookings made through local public health units, pharmacies and doctors’ offices across the province.
More Ontario health units were planning to run child-specific clinics over the weekend and early next month.
Children elsewhere in Canada were also set to roll up their sleeves as vaccine supply rolled in to more cities and towns.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, a St. John’s clinic started offering jabs to kids earlier than expected on Thursday after doses arrived ahead of schedule.
The health authority covering the provincial capital and surrounding area said it was working with schools in the region to finalize school clinic dates.
Quebec’s health department said one-quarter of eligible children in the province had been registered for the shots, with 163,000 appointments made as of Thursday.
Vaccinations began in earnest in that province on Wednesday, as clinics in Saskatchewan and Manitoba also also started giving out some of the smaller doses to kids.