Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric-size coronavirus vaccine — a low dose intended for ages 5 to 11 — in early November, Cedarhurst pediatrician Dr. Mitchell Weiler introduced the inoculations, vaccines, and asked his young patients to express their feelings about the shots by drawing and writing about them.
The New York State Department of Health has long suggested that those who receive the vaccination stay at the site for at least 15 minutes so they can be monitored for any side effects.
“I was thinking, what are we going to do with this room full of kids in the waiting area?” recalls Weiler, who spent the last 17 years of his 40-year career in a practice on Carman Avenue in Cedarhurst, after a decade in Woodmere.
To keep the kids occupied during the post-vaccination wait, Weiler started giving them a prompt, which can be written on blue paper and taped to a wall in the reception area. It says, “Take a picture and tell us why you want a Covid vaccine.”
Kids have mixed feelings before getting the shot, Weiler said. “Some are [scared], and some are very happy to get it,” he said, adding: “Most of them think they’re trying to protect themselves from Covid,” while others are “just kids who don’t want to be vaccinated, so they’re stripped. It’s a broad spectrum.”
Weiler thought it would be interesting to see what they thought by offering them crayons and paper afterwards. “It really gives the kids a chance to express themselves,” he said, and their parents “are also quite interested in seeing what the kids have to say, and they like to keep the kid entertained during the waiting period.”
As kids draw, “They’re very calm,” said Evelyn Canarte, one of Weiler’s medical assistants, “and I see them [had] lots of encouragement from their parents to take the picture.”
Every time Canarte brings a child back to the waiting room after their vaccination, they tell her they are “sure” that they have done something good for themselves and others, she said.
The pandemic has been traumatic for many children, Weiler said, so the availability of the immunizations for this population is making many children excited to get through the pandemic.
“It gives the children a lot of hope and confidence that the mask phase of Covid and the pandemic will be over soon,” said Tiffany Norwood, another medical assistant. “A lot of them do it because they want to be closer to their relatives.”
In recent weeks, Weiler has hung nearly 30 post-vaccination drawings on waiting room walls and is considering putting them together in a book.