Therapy dogs helping with vaccine clinics in B.C. Interior

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – Therapy dogs and their volunteer dog handlers are making a critical impact on COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the hard-hit interior of BC.

For the past six weeks, St. John Ambulance has been sending the pups and their people to vaccine clinics in Penticton and Trail. Both locations are in a region with an above-average number of cases per day and a below-average vaccination rate.

Are you delaying or avoiding your COVID-19 vaccine for fear or fear of needles? Therapy dogs have been on site at many clinics lately to relieve stress and provide emotional support.

Find a clinic: https://t.co/YBh18K6d5khttps://t.co/UBmGJZvVif

– Internal Health (@Interior_Health) August 26, 2021

Anna Boekhoven says there are dogs in communities across BC who volunteer in nursing homes and hospitals. This pandemic partnership was started by someone with the health department who thought that people who were afraid or afraid of needles could benefit from some convenience for dogs.

“She just knew how beneficial the program was to people’s mental health and levels of stress and anxiety. She thought it could be a nice service that we offer during the vaccination clinics if we really try to vaccinate everyone as soon as possible, ”she explains.

“It’s a pretty stressful situation. Having the dogs around just gives them something else to focus on, something soft and cozy – it just gets them over their backs. “

Boekhoven says the initiative was warmly welcomed by everyone involved.

“One of the supervisors emailed us saying it was the most immediately enjoyable volunteer experience they had. You can see immediately how well the dogs are being accepted and how grateful everyone is that they are there. That was very positive for the volunteers themselves – and of course the dogs love the attention, ”she says.

“It’s just a win-win for everyone.”

The pooches in the program will keep people company while they wait in line to get the jab or during the 15-minute wait afterwards.

“Our dogs just really love people and love to interact with members of the public. They look for a friendly, happy nature and really want to see and greet every stranger they come into contact with, ”says Boekhoven.

“If you see one of our dog handlers in public or in one of the clinics, be sure to say hello and pet the dog – they absolutely love that.”

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And, according to Boekhoven, working to promote and improve public health is a perfect match for the values ​​of the organization.

“Anything we can do to make our community safer. That’s the whole core mission of our nonprofit, helping communities feel safer at home, at work, and while playing. I am really proud that the therapy dogs did it. “