By Santiago Carbone
Montevideo, Jan 12 (EFE).- With a new book in one hand and an ice cream treat in the other, dozens of relieved children are leaving the Covid vaccination center at the Pereira Rossell Hospital Center in Montevideo, where colorful cartoon characters hold their attention while they wait for the sometimes-dreaded jab.
Of the 12,700 children who on Wednesday are being vaccinated throughout Uruguay on the first day for inoculating kids 5-11 years old, 650 are receiving their shots at Pereira Rossell, Uruguay’s main pediatric hospital.
In the reception area, a sign painted in red, blue, purple, green and yellow welcomes the little ones who come in with their parents, EFE noted.
A little farther in, two screens display animated drawings to attract the attention of the kids in the waiting room.
Some of them are nervous, but there are few tears in the moments before the kids are taken in at different stations where they receive the proper pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine. And some seem to be unfazed at the prospect of getting their arms pricked.
“It’s not going to hurt” and “It’ll only take a second” are some of the phrases that the healthcare personnel say to the kids, who – once they’ve been vaccinated – can choose a new book as a reward.
“Valentina and the Samurai Toothbrush,” “Salva and the Soap Bubbles” and “Vaccines: myths and realities” are the titles of some of the book from which the kids can choose after they get their shots.
And, as if some fun reading is not enough compensation for the jab, before they return to the waiting room for the 15-minute wait to be sure they have no adverse reaction to the vaccine, each child receives an ice cream bar. Of course, given Uruguay’s current heat wave, they all can hardly wait to open up the cold treats.
In the waiting room, amid colorful decorations, chairs and swings, happy music is playing all day long.
“The children come to get vaccinated, but also to play, to spend a little time relaxing and they leave with some kind of gift,” said the deputy minister of public health, Jose Luis Satdjian, in his speech to the media at the inauguration of the child vaccination campaign in Uruguay.
According to figures provided by Public Health Minister Daniel Salinas, who was also present at the event, of the 320,000 children aged 5-11 in Uruguay, 84,000 will receive their first vaccine dose either this week or next and 40,000 more will be inoculated two weeks from now at the more than 170 vaccine stations nationwide.
Satdjian discussed how the program will be administered at Pereira Rossell, the hospital where 50 percent of Uruguayan children are born.
“We came to this place some days ago amid ladders, electricians and carpenters. Here, you could see the love they were putting into the work, into each detail so that today this place can receive all the children and their families who come to get the vaccine with happiness and love,” he said.
Uruguay is experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 due to the spread – starting in late December – of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, which has exponentially increased the number of daily infections and active cases, although not the number of serious cases or deaths.
Since March 13, 2020, when the first positive coronavirus cases were detected in Uruguay, the country has suffered 463,357 cases and 6,202 deaths – according to official figures – and currently there are 49,373 known active cases.
Given the situation, almost 76 percent of Uruguayans have been fully vaccinated and 1.6 million of the country’s 3.5 million citizens have also gotten a booster shot.
Those numbers will continue to rise this week and although “emotions at being vaccinated sometimes result in tears,” Sadtjian said speaking about inoculated adults, the children don’t seem to be as much affected in that way, particularly because of the twin incentives of receiving a new book and an ice cream.