My 7-year-old neighbor looked less than thrilled as her mom drove her off for her second H1N1 flu shot yesterday. But she and her little sister both have asthma, and their mom didn't want to take needless risks with a novel flu strain that's hitting children harder than adults.
With H1N1 vaccine gradually being distributed to more pediatricians and clinics, parents will increasingly be getting it for their kids. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll on H1N1 flu vaccine found that about 55 percent of parents plan to have their children vaccinated for H1N1 flu. Unfortunately, more than half of those parents (52 percent) are having trouble finding vaccine. Federal and state governments are still scrambling to organize a national vaccination campaign that has been widely criticized for failing to match supply with demand and for failing to make sure that high-risk children—such as my neighbors with asthma—get vaccinated first. Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics, told the Associated Press today that the campaign is "not working right at all."
But if you have managed to find H1N1 vaccine for your kids and would like some help explaining the whats and whys of vaccines and shots, Sid the Science Kid is ready to help. In a special episode of the popular PBS children's program, Sid talks with pets and other kids about getting shots, how vaccines protect against disease, and how to handle fear of shots. The 28-minute Sid the Science Kid flu shot episode is available for a free download at Flu.gov.
There's even an iPhone app that reads a sweet story to children who are worried about shots: In "The Brave Monkey Pirate," a story by Hayes Roberts, Modi discovers a magical rock that helps him survive shot fears. He also gets ice cream after his vaccination, which is never a bad idea. My daughter loves having my iPhone "read" her Modi's story, and she returns to it again and again. It's a creation of iStoryTime, a Summerland, Calif., start-up that formats children's books for iPhones. At $1.99, the stories are cheaper than the print versions, and the company shares revenue with the authors. (In another health-related iStoryTime story, "Fred the Fish," Arctic animals get excited about eating delicious, nutritious squash.) Woody Sears, one of the creators of iStoryTime, told me that he sees the product as a complement to reading books to children, not a replacement. "The handy thing about our application is that when you can't read a book—you're driving the car or in the grocery store—you can hand this to them," he says.
How do you help your children deal with shot anxiety? A treat afterward has always worked for us. But I'd love to know what works for your family. Please, do tell.