“If I give you a gift, you won’t give me injection?” This question came from my then 5-year-old patient and caught me off guard. I remember having only two choices: to stick to my “You don’t have a choice, I am your doctor” face, or to sit him down to explain. You can probably guess the route I took.
“Hold on to Mommy and on the count of three, take a deep breath.” I was about to administer the vaccine but decided to turn the experience into a game and instructed my 3-year-old patient if she could practice counting with me. She readily agreed and we did two rounds. Feeling that she was relaxed enough, we got into the needed position. Midway, she transferred the responsibility by saying, “Mommy, you count.”
“Doctor, I am truly sorry but could you please just give me a few minutes?” The twins were about to get their injection and their daddy had to prime them. He must have done a great job for when it was their turn, the boys rushed in, proceeded to strike “Herculean poses” and shouted, “Power Rangers!” It was the needed cue.
“It’s going to give me antibodies.“ Said in a mumble and a near whisper, I had to lean close and gently asked her to repeat. “Where did you learn this from?” She replied with a shy smile and said, “I watched it on YouTube,” and readily offered me her arm.
Vivid memories, priceless interactions. Each and every encounter is always a learning moment. For children, in cultivating our relationships with them, please keep in mind that they can never be too young to understand. Include them in the conversation and prepare them for the experience.
The strength in acceptance lies in the approach. Make it simple and easy for them to understand the why, and the how, and cap it off with the benefits of getting that much-needed shot. The formula for a flavorful explanation is a concoction of being honest and straightforward, acknowledging fears, and affirming the less-than-palatable truth that even if injections do hurt, the pain to be felt is temporary. Give them enough time and space to let it all sink in. Be forewarned that this is not a perfect recipe but comes with a guarantee that it is worth the effort. As a doctor, take charge. As a parent, encourage.
“The Big Catch-Up.” This is the theme for the World Immunization Week set from April 24-30. The goal is to ensure that children, adults, and the community are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. In a previous article, I mentioned that the year-end report of 2022 of the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH) had documented an exponential rise in epidemic-prone diseases, particularly measles. The figure cited a 186-percent rise from 2021. If this does not create the needed alarm bell, please be informed that we are also under threat of losing the certification of being a polio-free country.
We are in no position to suffer from another outbreak.
Last Friday, we were in a forum hosted by the Metro Manila Center for Health Development. For the whole month of May, the DOH will be embarking on a supplemental immunization campaign for measles, rubella, and oral polio. The aim: To immunize 95 percent of children from nine months to less than 5 years old against measles and rubella, and at least 95 percent for children 0 to less than 5 years old against bivalent polio.
Sitting in a room with stakeholders from different sectors who were publicly called to commit, I was asking myself how far could we really go together as a community. I had to remind myself of the very words that I had uttered a week ago when a well-meaning official from a global agency posted a question as to why we had never reached the ideal coverage rates despite having the competency and the commitment. Rather than taking this negatively, I chose to take it as a challenge.
You and I can make the much-needed changes for always, I believe, the Filipino can!