Vaccination clinic for ages 5-11 nurtures excitement for second dose


Photo contributed by Chrissy Toeplitz

Chrissy Toeplitz’s kids, Henry (6) and Paige (9), received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Staples High School clinic on Nov. 13.

Needles. Blood. Tears. Band-Aids. Usually, this is the standard protocol for young kids receiving a shot. Children are begrudgingly dragged into the dreaded doctor’s office, sick with anticipation for the daunting syringe. 

However, at the Staples High School vaccination clinic on Nov. 13, sponsored by Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, children ages 5-11 left with a smile on their face, a balloon animal in hand and a dose of the Pfizer vaccine in their arm — and maybe a glitter tattoo.

For many Westport families, the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11 was largely anticipated after all children ages 12 and over were eligible for the Pfizer vaccine last May. The announcement was a relief for many families who were waiting to engage in pre-COVID activities until their youngest children could get vaccinated. 

“I would say that my younger kids were nervous about getting the vaccine but excited about what the vaccine will mean for them over the next few months,” Chrissy Toeplitz, mother of three, said. “They have seen their older sister (13) be able to do more things because she is vaccinated and they are looking forward to having more assurance of not catching COVID as a result of having the vaccine.”

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services personnel, as well as the Community Emergency Response Team, helped to facilitate the vaccination process along with Westport Public School Nurses and local pediatricians. 

“We use[d] a very careful, sterile technique to draw up all the vaccines,” Village Pediatrics’ Jennifer B. Gruen, M.D. said. “We use[d] a lot of measures, like our buzzy bee, to make kids feel more comfortable when getting the shot. Most said they felt nothing.”

We use[d] a very careful, sterile technique to draw up all the vaccines. We use[d] a lot of measures, like our buzzy bee, to make kids feel more comfortable when getting the shot. Most said they felt nothing.

— Jennifer B. Gruen

“The nurses did a fantastic job making the kids comfortable,” Matt Grove, father of three, said. “There was a kids balloon animal maker, a temporary tattoo artist and various other games and things the kids could do. Ella (9) was not nervous at all given the professional but fun environment.”

The strong sense of community contributed to the overall tolerable and even positive experience of receiving the shot. In addition to the entertainment, children felt at ease when seeing friends. 

“It was really a feeling of all of us being in this together because the kids ran into their friends there and saw how many other kids were getting the vaccine,” Toeplitz said. “They left feeling like they were doing their part to put an end to this virus.”

The shot was eventually a small price to pay for the children, who were able to see their friends, get a glitter tattoo and be protected against COVID-19. Although some children were nervous for the shot, they are looking forward to the implications of being vaccinated.   

“The kids were so excited to get their vaccines — not their actual shots,” Gery Grove, pediatric RN and wife of Matt, said. “They are ready to have guests and see family and go to movies and they knew this was their path to getting all of that back in their lives.”

Overall, the clinic was a success for children and parents alike, vastly different from the classic shot-at-the-doctor’s-office experience. 

“All of the volunteers were so friendly and upbeat and the general feeling in the room was one of fun instead of dread,” Toeplitz said. “Everyone left with smiles on their faces.”