Dinosaur-themed vaccine clinic helps put children at ease

The Wilson Hospital COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Mitcham has been given a prehistoric makeover, with the aim of putting young children at ease when they come for their jab. Throughout February, the Wilson has been running clinics for children aged five to 11 who are eligible for vaccination because they are clinically extremely vulnerable or living in a household with a vulnerable person. 

Mohammad Hassan Ally, clinical lead for the Wilson’s vaccination programme, came up with the idea to create a more child-friendly centre. He said: “We wanted to make the space a bit special for the children coming in for their vaccines – to give it less of a clinical vibe.

“I suggested it to our volunteers, and we thought, ‘let’s go with a dinosaur theme’ – but friendly dinosaurs, it’s not Jurassic Park. We thought that would appeal to everyone. Our volunteers supplied the materials and did everything. Even the testing team have chipped in.”

A bright display makes the world of difference

Vaccine centre volunteer, Lou, who led on the decorations programme, said that producing something artistic and imaginative had brought everyone together as a creative team. “I love that all the different departments were involved, “ she said. “As a teacher I know that putting up a bright display will make the world of difference to a dark and formal room.” 

So far, 30 children aged five to 11 have received the vaccine at the Wilson, or the Nelson Health Centre in Wimbledon. This group can walk-in for a vaccine with their parents at the sessions, but they must have a letter from their GP showing that they are eligible.

Zahraa, who is ten, came for her vaccine because of a vulnerable family member. She said: “ I came here to take my vaccine to help my friends and family stay safe – so get your vaccine here!”

The children have been very mature

While the artwork aims to reassure younger visitors to the clinic, according to Mohammad, most children have not been anxious about getting the vaccine. He said: “We expected to have some nervous children through our doors, but they haven’t been. The children have been very mature, even the five-year-olds. They understand what is happening.”

The Wilson’s clinics welcome both adults and children and all the vaccinators are specially trained to administer doses to younger patients. Says Mohammad: “If children are worried about needles, we use distraction techniques and we try to be quick. But also, when a child comes in, we talk to them as well as their parent, we engage with them and that seems to help them be brave.”

Lou added:  “As a parent I know the importance of bringing children into a medical environment where they feel happy and distracted. We all had such fun doing this.”

The government announced on 16 February that all five to 11-year-olds will be eligible for the jab. The NHS in South West London will give more details on how the vaccine will be rolled out to families who take up the offer, later in the spring.

Young people aged 12 to 15 are urged to come forward

Young people aged 12 to 15 are urged to come forward for the vaccine to prevent them from missing school, to protect them from the virus and the effects of long COVID, and for the sake of vulnerable friends, family and the wider community. Read more here.

While coronavirus restrictions have been eased from this week, recent ONS data reveals that the virus has not gone away, with COVID infections remaining high among those in secondary school years seven to 11, at around one in 11 (8.7%) testing positive in the week to 5 February.  

Teenagers, who haven’t been vaccinated yet can book or walk-in to a South West London vaccine centre, along with those eligible for a second dose (who had their first dose 12 weeks ago). Young people aged 12 to 17, who have had COVID-19 must wait 12 weeks until they can be vaccinated, in line with JCVI guidance.  

Parents with questions can call in at any South West London vaccine centre for a chat with our super-friendly staff – no pressure for you or your child to get the vaccine. You can also call us on 020 3880 0338. We will book you a telephone appointment at a time that suits you or a face-to-face appointment if preferred. Please note that charges may apply.