By Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira
LISBON – Nurses wearing reindeer antler headbands danced to festive music and Santa Claus showed up at a Lisbon vaccination centre on Saturday as young children started to receive their COVID-19 shots.
Martim Sobral, 10, and his dad Paulo were among the first to arrive at the large vaccination site after Portugal’s health authority last week approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those aged five to 11.
“If I don’t get vaccinated I have more chances of getting COVID-19, and I don’t want that,” Martim said. His father added: “It is important for everyone, for the world, for the country, that the vaccine exists so people can be protected.”
Nurses wearing Rudolph the reindeer headbands or the red nose said they were trying to ease the children’s anxieties.
“It is a mass vaccination campaign in an unwelcoming building so we tried to create a more relaxed environment so children are less anxious,” said nurse Paula Ramos.
As children left the site to head home, staff handed out candy and gave them colourful stickers saying: “I’ve been vaccinated!”
Portugal, which has one of the world’s highest rates of vaccination against COVID-19 with around 87% of its 10 million population fully inoculated, is now facing a surge in infections, in part due to the Omicron variant.
Rita Oliveira and her 11-year-old son Afonso, also showed up at the vaccination centre, both previously infected with COVID-19. She took the opportunity to leave a message to parents still in doubt about whether to vaccinate their children or not.
“Trust those that know more than we do … so this (pandemic) finally ends and we can have our lives back,” she said.