SAN DIEGO — As the Centers for Disease Control encourages everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine, some hospitals are trying to make it easier for the kids to get their shot.
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 from the beginning when vaccines started to roll out.
"We started with the 75-year-olds and then the 65-year-olds and then the teachers," Gist said. "We want to be here and help all of them do better."
Now Gist and her dog are helping kids as young as 5-years-old go through the sometimes scary process of getting their COVID-19 vaccination.
"It's really just kind of being there and figuring out what would help a child," she said. "Sometimes it's just being a distraction that they get to reach over and pat a puff of fur. Sometimes they want the dog to sit right next to them or hold his paw. And sometimes they just can't make the shot easy but when they're finished, no matter how much they're crying, the dog can usually help stop the crying."
Gist and Ollie helped 5-year-old Noah sit through his vaccine. Noah's mother, Marissa, said his second shot with Ollie went better than his first shot without the dog.
"Definitely distracted him as well," she said. "Last time he was a little more hesitant to get the first shot done. It helped!"
Rady Children's Hospital has administered 19,000 first doses to kids ages 5 to 11 in San Diego County; Gist hopes seeing a friendly face helps encourage others to get their vaccine.
"Knowing that there might be a dog there just helps everybody feel a little bit more comfortable," she said. "It just feels like I think a relief for everyone."