Nine-year-old Elian Jarvis rolled up his sleeve, took one deep breath and closed his eyes just before the needle entered his little arm.
He didn’t flinch or grimace, and the whole thing took a little over a second for him to be vaccinated from COVID-19.
But his little brother Benson wasn’t so confident. The 6-year-old climbed up on his dad’s lap and was in near tears awaiting his COVID vaccine shot.
It wasn’t until he looked over at his big brother that calm set in.
The shot took far less time than it did to pick out what flavor sucker Benson wanted.
“Don’t let these shots bother you,” said Elian, who wanted to reassure children around his age. “Just let it (the fear) go. It doesn’t hurt at all. It will be fine.”
The Jarvis boys were just two of about 1,500 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who received their second COVID vaccination shots on Saturday at a clinic in Westerville sponsored by Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC).
It was the final event as part of a COPC clinic series that started about a year ago. Altogether, the program held 137 clinic days that distributed about 60,000 free vaccine shots for between 30,000 and 40,000 people. It's a process that COPC officials say can help protect the vaccinated or save someone else.
The clinics were open to the public and people had to register in advance, which eliminated the lines seen at some other vaccination events around the nation.
But Saturday’s clinic was all about the young children, who started walking in with their parents at 8 a.m. Once inside, families were escorted to one of the dozen or so vaccination stations, where the entire process took just a few minutes.
“Our kids weren’t excited to get a shot but they understood what it meant,” said Melissa Madden, program director for nursing services at COPC. “I think the kids understand it’s not just about them. It’s about making sacrifices for each other.”
To date, around 15.95% of Ohio kids ages 5 to 11 have started the vaccine, meaning 159,110 have received at least one dose, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
So far, 246,841 Ohio kids from infants to age 17 have contracted COVID, 2,386 have been hospitalized and 20 have died, the state health department reports.
If enough children get vaccinated, it could result in an 8% decline in cases by March 2022 across the U.S., according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And as the number of COVID cases have continued to rise in recent weeks in Ohio and in many other places nationwide, so has the demand for the children’s vaccine both locally and nationally, according to Dr. Don Deep, COPC’s Senior Medical Director .
“We are trending in the right direction with getting children vaccinated,” Deep said. “It’s the best way to keep our community safe and healthy.”
Many parents say the best way to approach children about getting vaccinated is to be honest. They said most children are already used to receiving shots for other vaccinations, and the COVID vaccine shouldn’t be portrayed as something that can heighten their anxiety.
“I think it’s the best way to come out of this pandemic as quickly as we can, and our girls understand that,” said Karen Tackett, of Galena, whose daughters Leila, 10, and Eva, 6, just received their second shots. “And this is the best way to protect one another.”
Meanwhile, the Jarvis boys were enjoying their post-shot suckers in the waiting area with their dad, Jason Jarvis.
He said his sons sadly understood the importance of the vaccine because they lost a great-grandparent to COVID last year.
“I’m proud of them for handling this so well,” said Jason, an elementary school teacher, who has been vaccinated and has had the booster.
Little Elian again offered what medical say is the best advice.
“You should just get the shot,” he said. “It’s going to be OK.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio children are getting the COVID-19 vaccine