Hundreds of Juneau kids are getting COVID shots this week. Here’s how a few of them are handling it.

W white man with a t shirt and mask and baseball cap hugs a girl wearing a red face mask with blond hair
Sophie Griffith, 5, gets a kiss from her dad, Scott Griffith, after getting her COVID-19 vaccine during a pediatric clinic on Thursday, at Riverbend Elementary School in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Hundreds of young kids in Juneau are getting vaccinated for COVID-19 this week at clinics put on by local health officials.

A lot of kids barely notice the jab. For others, it’s really scary, but they have advice for anyone else who’s nervous about getting a shot.

At Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, nurse Aisha Hill tells third grader Nehir Caf to take a big, deep breath. She gives her a quick poke with a needle to give her the vaccine.

“And let it out. All done,” Hill said.

It hardly registers on Nehir’s face. Mom and dad tell her good job.

Nehir Caf gets COVID-19 vaccine shot
Erin Felke-Caf comforts her daughter, Nehir Caf, as nurse Aisha Hill gives her a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School on Nov. 9, 2021 in Juneau. Nehir said it felt like her little sister pinching her. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

“That hurted like my sister pinching me, a little,” Nehir said. “I could get thousands of those in one day!”

She said she’s happy she got it.

“Because if everybody gets it, and then we might not have to wear masks in school,” she said.

She said COVID is like the villain from Harry Potter.

“I don’t know why, but COVID reminds me of Voldemort,” Nehir said.

Her little sister Feray goes next. No problem.

Giuli Russell had a tougher appointment. She was really quiet, right up until the needle was ready. Then she started whimpering.

“I don’t wanna get it!” she said between alarmed breaths.

Giuli holds onto her mom’s hand, who’s pouring praise on her. A volunteer nurse keeps Giuli’s exposed arm still. Giuli bawls through the shot.

“You did amazing!” her mom said. “Come here, monkey butt. Oh, you did awesome.”

Carolina Russell and Giuli Russell at COVID-19 vaccine clinic 2021 11 09
Carolina Russell takes a selfie with her daughter, Giuli Russell, as volunteer nurse Sue Webb looks on during a youth COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Mendenhall River Community School on Nov. 9, 2021, in Juneau. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Mom gives her a big hug. Her next shot for the flu goes about the same.

A few minutes later, Giuli’s eyes are dry, and she said she feels good.

She and her mom hang out in the gym of Mendenhall River Community School, just in case there’s a bad reaction. For the other kids that need to get shots, Giuli said, “Be brave.”

Giuli’s mom, Carolina Russell, promises her some treats, too.

“Uh, I did say McDonald’s and froyo after,” she said. “And then we found out she gets to go to Coppa this weekend, so she’s got a pretty good deal out of this one. But I said, ‘If you’re gonna do that, you’ve got to get a flu shot, too.’ So pretty good negotiation, right?”

Giuil’s not so sure.

Coppa is offering a free scoop of ice cream to young kids with their vaccine cards.

Icee Delgado, 9, gets a flu shot after getting her COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, at Riverbend Elementary School in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Carolina is eager to get her daughter vaccinated. Her parents live in Sweden, and she said the family had to cancel two trips to see them because of the pandemic.

“I’m trying to get to some sort of normalcy, as much as possible,” Carolina said. “So, I mean, that is one of many things, of course, but I feel like it’s important to be part of the solution in whatever way we can.”

Trey Powers is in sixth grade. He’s a few minutes away from getting his shot, and he’s nervous and upset.

“I didn’t have a choice! They forced me to get a shot,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me not get it.”

His parents walk him through some downsides of not getting the shot.

“What reasons do you not want to get a shot?” his dad asks.

He’s oozing with petulance. “Uh, I’ve done well without getting COVID for two years!”

Then mom: “And why is that?”

“Because I’ve been wearing a mask,” Trey said.

“And, staying at home all the time,” dad adds.

“That and –”

“– Not doing a lot of stuff because you’re not vaccinated?” dad continues.

Trey’s a little deflated. “Technically it’s only been a year,” he grumbles.

Once he’s in the hot seat, he asks to see the needle.

Geo Abad, 10 and his sister Bea Abad, 9, wait around in the gym at Riverbend Elementary School after getting their COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, in Juneau. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Nurse Aisha Hill shows him. “See how small that is? … So that’s what we’re going to put in, it’s .2 milliliters, so it’s that much fluid in there. OK?”

“OK. I’m like, gonna get a spot ready to pinch, so I can not deal with that,” he said, eyeing the needle.

And that’s his suggestion for other kids: Distract yourself with a pinch somewhere else.

A moment later, it’s over. Trey’s protests shift to how soon he can get free ice cream.

Nurse Aisha Hill talks with Trey Powers about the COVID-19 vaccine
Nurse Aisha Hill answers questions for Trey Powers about the COVID-19 vaccine he’s about to get at a clinic at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School in Juneau on Nov. 9, 2021. Powers said he pinched himself as he got the shot to distract himself from the sting. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Through Tuesday’s clinics, about 450 young children in Juneau got their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. So far, none have had a bad reaction. At least, not in the medical sense.

These clinics are a big step for the school system.

“We have seen the highest percentage of our cases in schools being our elementary, unvaccinated population,” Superintendent Bridget Weiss told the Juneau Board of Education on Tuesday.

Among all school system employees, Weiss said at least 93% are vaccinated.

Appointments are still available for upcoming free, youth vaccine clinics in Juneau. You can sign up at Juneau.org/vaccine or by calling 907-586-6000.

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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