Community Pharmacist Has a Magic Touch With the Youngest Vaccination Patients
An adolescent patient takes a selfie while pharmacist Steven Feinstein administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Westchester County, New York.
Parents from all across Westchester County, New York, bring their children to get their COVID-19 vaccines from Steven Feinstein, BSPharm. He administers the vaccines at two independent pharmacies—Rye Beach Pharmacy in Rye and Prescription Plus in Ossining.
Although Feinstein isn’t the only immunizing pharmacist in the county, he is one of only a few who vaccinates children down to 6 months old. “Apparently, in this area, not all the pharmacists have wanted to vaccinate that age group,” he said.
Feinstein has developed such a winning way with the young people of Westchester County that parents are willing to drive further to have him vaccinate their children.
When children arrive for their appointments, as expected, many are anxious. Feinstein plays children’s music on his phone and encourages those who are young enough to climb onto their parent’s lap. He then assures them that the shot won’t hurt at all.
“And they look at me like ‘How is that possible?’ So, I explain that I have magic fairy dust,” Feinstein said. The children watch with wide eyes, and still a bit of skepticism, as the pharmacist sprays lidocaine on an alcohol swab and dabs it onto the injection site—the thigh for the youngest children and the upper arm for the others.
From the moment that Feinstein draws up the vaccine until he inserts the needle into the patient’s limb—mere seconds to him, but an eternity to some children—the key, he says, is to keep the child talking.
“There was a kid who played drums, so I asked him to name some of the greatest drummers,” Feinstein said. “If they are into athletes, Disney characters, whatever it is, I will have them name them.”
Keep anxious children distracted from vaccinations through conversation.
The community pharmacist also has an arsenal of jokes that he uses to distract the children during their vaccination.
“‘So, your mother was just telling me you got your driver’s license,’ I’ll say to a 10-year-old. He’ll laugh and say, ‘I can’t drive,’ and by then, the injection is all over, and they can’t believe that was it,” Feinstein said.
The aim with anxious children, Feinstein says, is to keep them distracted. “A nurse once told me that the brain can’t concentrate on both the injection and the conversation, so [the children] will concentrate on the conversation, and it works.”
After the initial rush to get children vaccinated once they became eligible, Feinstein noticed a drop in the number of pediatric patients coming in for the COVID-19 vaccine. He says many parents continue to be hesitant to get their children vaccinated for fear of unknown long-term side effects or other misperceptions.
Feinstein emphasizes the importance of pharmacists staying informed about vaccines and allaying parents’ and patients’ fears by dispelling myths about vaccination. He explains quickly and in simple terms how bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is different from the original formulation; how mRNA vaccines work; and that mRNA vaccine technology has been around long before COVID-19 vaccines were developed.
“If you are knowledgeable and exude confidence, you will gain [their] confidence.”
Resources to Tailor Your Outreach to specific populations and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccines are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.