Getting Ice Cream, Seeing Grandparents Top Wish Lists of Kids Getting Vaccinated in France

As France begins to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11, many are excited about what they can do now that they are vaccinated.

At a "vaccinodrome" mass vaccination event in the suburbs of Paris, kids were excited and anxious to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Children without health risks were approved to receive vaccines on Wednesday. In order to begin receiving their shots, children must have the consent of at least one parent, and one must be present at the time of vaccination.

Having children receive vaccines is critical for many health care workers and parents. More than 1,000 of every 100,000 children between the ages of 6 and 10 were infected with COVID-19 as of early December. Furthermore, 145 children are hospitalized and 27 are currently in intensive care units.

However, that was not on the minds of children receiving their first doses on Wednesday. Instead, they were preoccupied with other thoughts, such as trying to calm nerves by playing games or with their toy cars. Many thought about what they can do after they are fully vaccinated.

One child, 8-year-old Dimitri Marck was excited to get vaccinated in order to visit his grandparents for the holidays.

Some were more concerned about the rest of the day, such as 7-year-old Evan.

"Maybe if Mommy agrees, I can get an ice cream or something sweet, because I got a vaccine," Evan explained.

Dimitri Getting Vaccine
Schoolchildren went with their parents to a vast "vaccinodrome" near Paris, where they would receive a "vaccination diploma" as France kicked off mass vaccinations of children aged 5 to 11. Above, a pediatrician administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Dimitri Marck, 8, at the National Velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, west of Paris, on Wednesday, December 22. AP Photo/Michel Euler

The French schoolchildren clung nervously to their parents as they entered the vaccine center west of Paris on Wednesday—then walked excitedly away with a decorated "vaccination diploma."

It's not a moment too soon for the French government, which is facing the highest recorded infection rates since the pandemic began but is trying to avoid a new lockdown.

The health minister said Wednesday that the swiftly-spreading Omicron variant is expected to be dominant in France by next week but ruled out additional restrictions on public life for now. Officials are hoping that a surge in vaccinations will be enough to limit the mounting pressure on hospitals, where COVID-19 patients occupy more than 60% of beds.

France registered 72,832 new cases Tuesday and has 16,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19, among the highest numbers in Europe.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne asked companies to let employees work remotely wherever possible for at least three, if not four days a week. French businesses largely returned to in-person work in 2020.

France has shut down nightclubs and banned New Year's Eve fireworks and other mass end-of-year celebrations, including concerts.

"It's an evening sacrificed for a good cause," Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

But his main message was to urge more vaccination. More than 89% of people aged 12 and over in France have had two doses, and about a third have had a booster shot.

Hugo, 8, was the last member of his family to get the shot and felt left out. His father, Benoit Chappaz, said they got him vaccinated "not because the government wants us to," but for their family's peace of mind and for general public health.

Evan's great-uncle died with COVID-19, and his family knows several people who have been hospitalized with the virus.

As the doctor glided the needle into his arm, Evan didn't scream. Instead, he wrapped himself around his mother and buried his head in her jacket.

Then, as he left, he proudly held up his "diplome de vaccination."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

France registered 72,832 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and has 16,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19, among the highest numbers in Europe. Above, people wearing protective masks wait to be vaccinated at the National Velodrome on December 22 in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, west of Paris. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images