Therapy dogs help children through COVID-19 vaccinations
SAN DIEGO — While the Centers for Disease Control encourages everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19, some hospitals are trying to make it easier to vaccinate children.
the Canine therapy program at Rady Children’s Hospital tries to improve a scary experience.
Kristine Gist and her Goldendoodle Ollie have worked for years to comfort people in the hospital. The team has been there since the beginning when the vaccines started rolling out.
“We started with the 75s, then the 65s, then the teachers,” Gist said. “We want to be here and help them all do better.”
Now Gist and his dog are helping children as young as 5 through the sometimes scary process of getting the COVID-19 shot.
“It’s really just being there and understanding what might help a child,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just a distraction that they manage to reach out and pat a puff of fur. Sometimes they want the dog to sit right next to them or hold their paw. And sometimes they can’t. just not make the shot easy, but when they’re done, no matter how much they cry, the dog can usually help stop the crying.”
Gist and Ollie helped 5-year-old Noah get his shot. Noah’s mother, Marissa, said her second shot with Ollie went better than her first shot without the dog.
“It certainly distracted him too,” she said. “Last time he was a bit more hesitant to make the first move. That helped!”
Rady Children’s Hospital administered 19,000 initial doses to children ages 5 to 11 in San Diego County; Gist hopes seeing a friendly face will encourage others to get vaccinated.
“Knowing that there might be a dog there helps everyone feel a little more comfortable,” she said. “It’s like I think it’s a relief for everyone.”