Gov. DeWine visits Dayton Childrens’ mass vaccination site Sunday morning

Abbey, 10, and Lillian Kohlbacher, 9, both of Beavercreek, speak with Mindy Hilgeford, a Dayton Children's nurse, before getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday. Eileen McClory / staff

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Abbey, 10, and Lillian Kohlbacher, 9, both of Beavercreek, speak with Mindy Hilgeford, a Dayton Children's nurse, before getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday. Eileen McClory / staff

About 2,000 children were vaccinated at Dayton Children’s Hospital’s mass vaccination clinic on Sunday at University of Dayton’s arena, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was there to witness it.

DeWine walked through the crowd at the arena with his wife, Fran DeWine, talking to parents and children who were there to get their first shots.

The first vaccine for kids between ages 5 and 11, a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine for adults, was approved for emergency use in late October. Previously, Pfizer was approved for ages 12 and up.

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Families and staff wait in the hallway at UD Arena for a 15 minute observation period on Sunday after getting the vaccine. Eileen McClory / staff

Families and staff wait in the hallway at UD Arena for a 15 minute observation period on Sunday after getting the vaccine. Eileen McClory / staff

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Families and staff wait in the hallway at UD Arena for a 15 minute observation period on Sunday after getting the vaccine. Eileen McClory / staff

Abby Kohlbacher, 10, of Beavercreek, got her vaccine on Sunday. She said the shot hurt a little bit and she was scared to get it at first, but it was not as bad as she’d thought. She and her sister, Lillian, 9, got their vaccines together at the clinic.

“Mainly it’s just the nervousness that will get you,” she said.

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Dayton Children’s did not use the basketball court to administer shots. Instead, they partitioned off small sections of the walkways that access the stadium seating. A nurse administered the shots, but each nurse typically had a helper with them to distract the kids. The observation room was in another hallway close to the doors.

There were also plenty of distractions. The hospital handed out sensory toys to distract kids, cartoons were on all the TV sets and therapy dogs were available for kids to pet. Sunny, a golden retriever and Labrador mix, was wearing a princess hat, which her handler, Karen Loar, said also made her more approachable for children.

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Ohio's First Lady, Fran DeWine, pets Sunny, a therapy dog, on Sunday, as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer at Dayton Children's, and Sunny's handler, Karen Loar, look on. Eileen McClory / staff

Ohio's First Lady, Fran DeWine, pets Sunny, a therapy dog, on Sunday, as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer at Dayton Children's, and Sunny's handler, Karen Loar, look on. Eileen McClory / staff

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Ohio's First Lady, Fran DeWine, pets Sunny, a therapy dog, on Sunday, as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer at Dayton Children's, and Sunny's handler, Karen Loar, look on. Eileen McClory / staff

As an additional incentive, the hospital gave out $100 gift cards, one per vaccinated child, to those who came on Sunday.

According to Dayton Children’s, about 250 staff were onsite Sunday to help the operation go smoothly.

Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer at Dayton Children’s, said the hospital had been planning this event for more than a month.

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“We think it’s very important that this vaccine be given to children at this age group to allow them to get back to school safely,” Mezoff said. “It’s been proven very safe in this age group. So we encourage all families to consider bringing their children to get it.”

Mezoff said there was a lot of thought that went into the planning, including setting up rooms for kids with special needs. The flow of the set up also allowed families to get in and out quickly.

DeWine said the availability of the vaccine for younger kids will make a difference in his own family’s plans for the holidays.

“I know for our family, we’ll be together for Thanksgiving most of us and this is something that we could not have done last year,” he said.

DeWine said there was a feeling of relief and happiness throughout the UD arena on Sunday.

“These vaccines allow us to get back to normal and allow us to move on with our lives,” DeWine said.

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