Category: Vaccination

January 27, 2022 by Dr Kathryn Hackman 0 Comments

The importance of Debrief with your kids after a vaccination

Your kids will be going back for a second dose – the debrief is SUPER important to ensure a smooth next vaccination (although always good to do preparation again).

Its easy to put a big Job Done line through the vaccine once its over, but your child may still be processing the experience. 

Here are my top 4 debrief tips
1. Ask how they felt it went and validate all feelings.  

I could see my youngest was subdued in the hours after the vaccine. So I started the conversation with “Having a vaccine was a big deal, wasn’t it?”  Whereas for my eldest, who was completely fine, I just asked “how did you find all that?” 

You can open things up with the classic: “What was the best part and what was the worst?”  Sometimes the worst will be a surprise answer (eg I was bored waiting in the queue), and something that you can easily address next time.

2. Poke fun at the scary bits where you can!

Making fun of anything difficult is a great way to make it less scary. My boys chose to make jokes, so I followed their lead. No matter how silly, all joking is to be encouraged.  My kids decided that the needle was like Gru’s nose (yes, Mr Gru from Despicable Me).

3. Tell them how proud you are.

Tell your children at the time and again later, on several occasions,how proud you are of them for being so brave.

4. Believe your child if they tell you they are “feeling sick”.

Your child may well be tired, particularly if they were very nervous or found the whole process tricky. Be gentle with them. We had a PJ afternoon reading Star Wars cartoons in bed. Having that mum-time (it was me in this case, but any significant grownup), not being pushed to do anything else, was just what they needed. 

January 27, 2022 by Dr Kathryn Hackman 0 Comments

How to answer when your child asks “How do vaccines work?”

By now you’ve probably explained to your child that they will need a vaccine and why. Now they want a science lesson! This is such a great one and super fun to explain to young kids. Any fight analogy is going to work well for 3 – 7 year olds! 

Here’s how I explained the answer to my children.

Your body is already very clever at fighting diseases.
It fights them every day and you don’t even know about it.
But some diseases can make you really sick, and others are good at hiding, so your body can’t fight them.
Vaccines make it easier for your body to find and fight disease.

How they work is they show your body a little part of what the disease looks like.
That way your body can make an army to fight that part of the disease.
Then, if you get the real disease, your body already knows what it looks like, and has an army ready to attack!

Because the vaccine only gives you part of the disease, not the whole thing, it won’t make you sick.
It just helps your body get ready to fight the real disease, if you get it.

Then, even if you get the disease, you might not even know about it, because your body will just fight it for you.

As my kids got older and wanted more detail, I explained that “the army is actually your infection fighting cells.
Your body can build a bigger army, and quicker, every time it sees the vaccine, or the disease.”

With Covid-19 requiring multiple doses of vaccine, you may also want to add:

Some vaccines you need only once and your body remembers what to do, but mostly the army that you made at the start gets smaller.
To build it up again, your body needs another dose of the vaccine – to see the bad guy again and remember what it looks like.
That way it can build an even bigger army which works even better, if you get the disease.

For younger kids (or even older kids – my 6 year old still loves this part) I do a role play.
Here’s the scene:

The bad guy disease comes along, in disguise, and says “la la la, nothing to see here.”
But after the vaccine your body says – “hang on a minute, I SEE you!!!”
And your body calls in its special army and kills off all the bad guys!
And then you don’t get sick. 

For older kids, or if you want a little more detail, there is a good outline of immunity here.

January 26, 2022 by Dr Kathryn Hackman 0 Comments

How to answer when your child asks “But WHY do I need it?”

After you’ve explained to your child that they will be having a vaccine and prepared them for the experience (see my blog: How to reduce your child’s vaccination anxiety), they may ask… “but WHY do I need it?”

Here is my guide for an honest, medically accurate answer, when this question is posed by a 2-7 year old.  

There are two overarching reasons that you, as a parent or carer, need to be clear on. 

  • Firstly, vaccinations prevent disease*. Having a vaccine against a disease will prevent your child from becoming sick if they are exposed to that disease, whether it be a virus or bacteria. 
  • Secondly, vaccinations stop the spread of disease. When your child is vaccinated, they will be far less likely pass on the disease to other people. 

So, here is how I have answered the WHY question from my children, from about age 4. Note: I use the word “germ” to cover both viral and bacterial nasties. It’s fine to be more specific later, or when the word virus is in common use, like “coronavirus”.

This vaccine stops you from getting sick if you catch the germ. It’s like a special superpower. Even if these germs are all around, once you’ve had the virus, the germs can’t hurt you. So, you are having this vaccine so that even if you have the germ, you won’t get sick”

For older kids (around age 6), I also add: 

“By having a vaccine, you stay healthy, even if the germs are around, AND you are less likely to spread those germs to other people. So, you are keeping yourself safe, and you are keeping everyone around you safe too.”

Now, get ready for your child’s follow up question: “How do vaccinations work?” 

*If you’d like a refresher on which vaccines are still in use and which diseases they prevent, the CDC has a great overview here 

January 20, 2022 by Dr Kathryn Hackman 0 Comments

How to reduce your child’s vaccine anxiety – preparation key

Your child has probably heard about Coronavirus by now and may have some worries. They may also already have heard about “a vaccine” but not know what this is. 

The following anxiety-reducing method is appropriate not just for the COVID-19 vaccine but can help with all vaccines (immunisations) administered by a needle, such as Influenza,  Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), meningococcus etc. 

It’s the “Not Knowing” that makes things scary for kids. So, I’ve made a 5-step breakdown of how to explain having a vaccine to your child. 

Each step has a separate main point that you want to get across to your child. Following each step, in order, allows a natural flow to the discussion and gives your child the chance to voice concerns or ask questions. 

I’ve written the discussion exactly as you might say it, in this font. This approach worked for my kids from about age 3 onwards. The younger the child, the simpler your language will be:

Step 1 – You need to have an injection

There’s a virus in the world called Coronavirus, or COVID, which can make people very sick.
But we now have medicines to stop people from getting sick, even if they catch the virus.
There is a special medicine called a vaccine.
It’s a tiny injection that stops you from getting sick, even if you catch the Coronavirus.
Pretty handy hey?!

Then PAUSE and see if your child asks any questions.   

If your child doesn’t know what an injection is: 

It’s a very thin needle that goes this far (hold your thumb and index finger 1 cm apart) in your arm for about 3 seconds to give the medicine to your body. 

The focus in on how this vaccine prevents serious illness, but your child will by now be thinking about the injection. So here is the next step.

Step 2 – You can do this! You’ve already had loads of injections

Do you know you’ve already had heaps of injections? (At this point I like to bring out their immunisation record for them to hold, and we look at it together).
You had an injection when you were born.
Then you had more when you were 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 1 year old, 1 ½ year old, and 4 years old!
You’ve had heapsand you were super brave for all of them!

At this point, your child may want to count up the number of injections they have had. They may also be very interested in how they went with all these injections. This is a great time to follow your child’s lead, as well as reflect on those experiences (which they probably won’t remember).

Step 3 – Reflect on previous injection experiences

If your child asks how they went previously:

Well, you cried when you were a baby.
You were too little for me to explain what would happen, so it was a big shock.
But as you got older, you got braver and braver. Sometimes you cried a bit, but you sat on my lap and had a big cuddle and it was over really quickly.
One time, they blew bubbles and distracted you, and you hardly even noticed!

Depending on how playful your child is feeling, you might show them what happened (a bit like the Bluey “Doctors” episode): 

When you were little the injection was like this (poke them gently in the thigh and say) “Sting!” right here in your thigh!  (Why? Because that was your chubbiest bit!).  

Step 4 – Be honest. It will hurt, but not much. 

This time, now you’re big, you will have the injection in your arm.
You will feel the needle (Yes, it IS a needle, no need to make a big deal of it), but you’ve had heaps of ouchier things. (Your child may think of all the pains they’ve had before – this is very helpful because you can then relate this vaccine to their previous experiences.) 

If your child doesn’t bring up previous pains: 

It will sting more than a mozzie bite, but will hurt a lot less than falling off your bike and way less than a bee sting.
And the sting only lasts for about 5 seconds, maybe less. (Then count 5 seconds together)

  • Be ready to have the conversation about how much it will hurt more than once. Reassure your child every time that they will feel it, but that it is far less painful than so many other experiences they’ve already had. 
  • NOTE: “It will hurt a bit, but I know you’ll be ok” will be more reassuring than “you’ll be fine”. 

Step 5 – Explain the practicalities

For this part, the amount of detail you give will depend on your child’s age and how much they want to know. Feel free to bring this down to the key steps of: when it is (day), how you will get there, and who will be with them the whole time. 

For those with kids who want to know everything, here it is (but you might break this up a lot with discussion along the way). 
  • We are going to get the vaccine on Thursday.
    That’s 2 sleeps away.
    We will go by car.
    After we park the car, we will put on our masks and go into the vaccination centre/pharmacy. 
    There will probably be a queue.
    They might ask us to use the hand sanitiser and will take our temperature.
    Then they check our details and show us how to get to the nurse’s station.
    You will sit on my lap, like this
    (practice child sitting on your lap, side on, and take the opportunity to give them a sneaky hug).
    The nurse will give you the injection (Sting!) and I’ll give you a big hug.
  • After the injection we sit in a waiting area for 15 minutes, just to check you are ok.
    Then, we can go home.
    Your arm might be a bit achy that night, or it might be fine.  
  • When we get to the car/ home …(Insert your treat here. For my kids, I said:  We will take the iPAD and you can watch TV all the way home.)
If you want to set it out as dot points or make a visual plan (you can use the visual planning tool within the Courageous Kids app) here are the 10 steps involved when you go to a vaccination hub: 
  1. Follow the entry signs
  2. Hand sanitiser
  3. Join the queue
  4. Temperature Check
  5. Check in 
  6. You might get a treat (fidget spinners)
  7. Await your vaccine station (there was a 9 ¾)
  8. Meet your nurse & Get VAXXED!
  9. Wait 15 min for obs – this is a good time for a cuddle. 
  10. Go home!! 

Final Thoughts

If you can see that your child is still worried, ASK them which part is worrying them the most. After you have addressed the first worry, ask if they have any other worries.  You may need this conversation, or parts of it, more than once. 

Do not be surprised if your child later asks…but why do I have to have it? Or but how does it work? 

Don’t worry. My blogs on  But WHY do I need it? And HOW does it work? Are coming soon!