REGINA — Seven-year-old Corbin Clearihue says his favourite part about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 was getting to meet Spider-Man.
As for the shot itself, "pretty good," he said. No pain felt.
Corbin was in the first group of children in Western Canada to receive Pfizer-BioNTech's pediatric vaccine as Saskatchewan opened clinics Wednesday in Regina and Saskatoon. Children between the ages of five and 11 in cartoon face masks showed up with parents and grandparents holding one of their hands, toys and stuffed animals in the other.
For some, the day meant a chance to skip school and enjoy celebratory ice cream after the shot.
For parents, it was another step in getting life back to normal.
"We're very social creatures, and now we'll be able to do things we wanted to do while protecting everyone around us," said Crystal Keir, Corbin's mother. Her son was last in the family to get vaccinated.
The arrival of the pediatric vaccine is helping some parents feel more comfortable about having their children in school or participating in extracurricular activities.
Melissa Potter from Regina has been keeping her seven-year-old daughter, Charlee Potter, at home. Potter said there have been too many COVID-19 scares in Charlee's classroom when other kids picked up the virus.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has said children under 12 account for the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections.
"She is the fifth child I have and the only one who hadn't been able to get it," Potter said.
"This will boost our sense of security. She knows it's going to benefit her and everyone around her."
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead with Manitoba's vaccine rollout, said the shots can prevent further disruption to children's lives.
"They're being impacted as much or maybe even more than the rest of us by how this virus is affecting our communities and so their ability to contribute to a lower spread of the virus has huge benefits for them," she said in Winnipeg, where children also started getting vaccinated Wednesday. It was a day ahead of schedule because shipments of the pediatric vaccine arrived early.
Some parents in Regina said they had been talking to their children for over a year about the vaccine.
"We had a talk about it, and how it works and what they're going to put in his body," said Ryan Campbell, who took his son Ryker, 6, to get vaccinated.
"He understands what he signed up for and what he's going to get."
The conversations have served the Campbell family well. When they told Ryker he had an appointment booked, he was excited. He said that once he is fully vaccinated, he plans to go to Chuck E. Cheese.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends an interval of at least eight weeks between the first and second doses for a better immune response. Saskatchewan has said the second dose can be administered as early as 21 days after the first, depending on parental preference.
More clinics across Western Canada are expected to open up this week.
Similar to Saskatchewan, Manitoba plans to roll out the shots at regional vaccine clinics, physician clinics, urban Indigenous clinics, pharmacies and pop-up community clinics. It will be available in some schools as well.
Alberta started taking online COVID-19 vaccination bookings for youngsters Wednesday and inoculations were to begin Friday. The plan is to administer the shots at 120 Alberta Health Services clinics and four pharmacies rather than in schools.
Health Minister Jason Copping said on Twitter that nearly 43,000 appointments for pediatric doses had been booked by Wednesday morning. The province has said about 391,000 Alberta children are eligible.
Health officials say 23,000 pediatric appointments have been booked in Manitoba, which has 125,000 children eligible, and 16,388 bookings have been made in Saskatchewan where 115,000 children are eligible.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2021.
— With files from Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg and Dean Bennett in Edmonton
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press