Pennsylvania: Service Pets to Alleviate COVID-19 Vaccination Fears

Jurisdiction: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Challenge: Fear of vaccinations, fear of needles, and going to vaccination clinics in clinical and hospital settings can cause stress and anxiety among some children and adults, especially those with special needs. Vaccination events are often busy, crowded, high-stress areas that see hundreds of people a day while trying to be as quick and efficient as possible. Working with adults and children with vaccination fears takes additional time and can be a challenge for providers and those seeking COVID-19 vaccinations.

Solution:  The Pennsylvania Department of Health has worked with KPETS (Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services) at recent vaccination events, including their annual state Farm Show. The KPETS volunteer dogs must pass tests proving that they will stay calm and gentle around kids and crowds before joining their team. The dogs and their volunteer owners are outgoing and have been a big hit, bringing in crowds happy to pet them and interact with the dogs. Some of the dogs even showed off some tricks! The dogs do a great job helping to distract kids and special needs adults while they get their vaccinations.

Outcome: The Pennsylvania Department of Health has seen people go in for the shot and come out without the child even knowing the shot happened because they were so absorbed in petting the dog. One little girl went in for her shot crying and came out with a big smile, still playing with the dog. KPETS services are free and serve many local communities in health-related settings. Pennsylvania has had a great experience with them and hopes to continue working with them in the future. Congratulations to Pennsylvania for thinking creatively to ease vaccination fears and bring smiles to their community!


Years: 2021

Locations: Pennsylvania

Programmatic Areas: Adolescent Immunization, Adult Immunization, COVID-19

Key Words: Adolescents, COVID-19, Health Equity

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