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“I felt like it would hurt, because after taking a flu shot I teared up a little bit. But this felt like nothing.”

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In what Quebec hopes will be a turning point in the pandemic, young children began being vaccinated against COVID-19 Wednesday morning.

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After appointments opened on Tuesday, at least 80,000 children were booked for their first doses across the province.

At the Palais des congrès vaccination site Wednesday morning, eager parents arrived with their children in tow as of 9 a.m.

Eleven-year-old Karan Kececi was among the first to receive the shot.

“I felt like it would hurt, because after taking a flu shot I teared up a little bit. But this felt like nothing,” he said after being vaccinated. “I feel good now. It’s sad getting COVID, but it’s good getting the vaccine.”

His father, Alp, expressed a deep sense of relief.

“With him in school, though they take all the precautions, you still have that big question mark in your head,” he said, noting there have been cases at Karan’s school throughout the year.

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“You always have this fear about how it will affect him if he gets it. But now we feel better.”

The centre had been rearranged to be more kid-friendly Wednesday morning, with each site decorated with animal posters and a therapy dog visiting any children who seemed uncomfortable.

Richard Vinet had booked an appointment for his 11-year-old daughter, Mayuki, as soon as he heard registration opened on Tuesday.

“I was pretty nervous, but it went really well,” Mayuki said after getting her shot. “It didn’t hurt as much as I expected.”

Vinet said it was important for his daughter to get vaccinated so she and others can be protected, but also to allow her to see her extended family again.

Mayuki’s mother is Japanese and her family lives in Nagano, Japan. Mayuki has gone every summer since birth, but hasn’t been able to since the pandemic struck.

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“She hasn’t really been able to see her family,” Vinet said, “so this is extremely important for us.”

Ali Al Fallouji, there with his nine-year-old son, Ihsan, echoed the sentiment.

“We think it’s important for society, but also to protect the grandparents and be able to travel together soon,” Al Fallouji said, adding the family has loved ones in Switzerland they haven’t been able to visit.

Ihsan’s 12-year-old brother, who is already vaccinated, had helped him get ready for the day, making him breakfast beforehand and talking him through any concerns.

But petting the therapy dog during his shot, Ihsan hardly reacted.

“It was amazing,” Al Fallouji said.

Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s reduced dose of its vaccine for young children last Friday, but Quebec had said it was waiting for a recommendation from its own immunization committee.

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That came on Tuesday, with the Comité sur l’immunisation du Québec recommending the shot for all young children “who do not have any contraindication.”

There are about 650,000 Quebecers in the five-to-11 age group. Premier François Legault has said that once 80 per cent of them are vaccinated, the province hopes to lift most of the remaining pandemic measures.

This story will be updated. 

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