Community Pharmacy Ensures Kids Are Safe and Comfortable

Pharmacist Trisha Winroth vaccinates a young patient against COVID-19 at Walgreens in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Pharmacist Trisha Winroth vaccinates a young patient against COVID-19 at Walgreens in Lowell, Massachusetts.

When children as young as 5 years old became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, Trisha Winroth, PharmD, pharmacy manager at Walgreens in Lowell, Massachusetts, knew that many parents would be hesitant. Not only would they have concerns about getting their children vaccinated with the relatively new vaccines, but parents also wouldn’t be accustomed to taking their children to the pharmacy for vaccinations.

“It’s certainly not the norm to bring young kids to the pharmacy for vaccines. This was really new for us, so people were a little hesitant,” Winroth said.

Winroth wanted to come out ahead of the concerns and reservations that were sure to arise.

The day pediatric COVID-19 vaccines became available in her pharmacy, Winroth brought her son in as their first patient. That got the ball rolling for her friends’ and colleagues’ children to start coming into the pharmacy for vaccination. Because Winroth personally knew the parents of this first cohort of pediatric patients, she could follow up with parents the next day to find out whether the children had experienced any side effects.

“We gave [children] the vaccine, and they were playing soccer the next day. They weren’t even fazed,” Winroth said.

In consideration of unpleasant flu-like symptoms that lasted more than a day following their own adult vaccination, some parents were hesitant for their children to be vaccinated. They didn’t want to put their children through the same experience. When parents expressed this concern, Winroth was ready.

“As more and more of my friends’ and colleagues’ children got vaccinated, the more I could tell parents with confidence that these kids were totally fine.”

Winroth took to Facebook to spread the word about pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, too. First, she wanted parents to know that children did not seem to have adverse reactions to the vaccine. She also wanted to describe the measures she’d taken to ensure pediatric patients would be safe and comfortable in her pharmacy.

As she developed and perfected new techniques for keeping children safe and happy during immunizations, Winroth passed the strategies along to other pharmacists in a “pharmacist moms” Facebook group.

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When providing care to children, greet them warmly and talk about something fun to comfort them and ease their anxiety.

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“I just wanted to give other pharmacists a pat on the back and let them know that they could do this and that kids aren’t that hard [to vaccinate],” Winroth said.

Winroth also filled bins with toys and prizes that children could play with as a distraction during the vaccination and take home as rewards for being brave. “Sometimes, just rummaging through the bucket of stuff was enough to distract them while I administered the vaccine,” she said.

When vaccinating children with autism or heightened anxiety, Winroth makes special accommodations. Her special knack with this patient population has brought many such children into her pharmacy. Knowing that it may take some time to get these patients comfortable, she schedules longer appointments. If a patient is claustrophobic and won’t enter the cubicle where immunizations typically take place, Winroth vaccinates the child in the waiting room.

“I will try anything they want to do as long as it’s safe.”

Resources to Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccine and Tailor Your Outreach are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.