Community Pharmacist Creates Book to Teach Children About the Importance of Vaccines

The book aims to make the vaccination process less scary and allow more children to be vaccinated.

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD, Pharmacy Manager, Sam’s Club, Columbia, South Carolina, discusses Our Best Shot, a new children’s book she wrote about childhood immunizations, with Pharmacy Times. Tune in as this new author talks about her inspiration, the significance of "why" for children, and how parents should not surprise kids with vaccination (unlike a trip to Disney World, Yarborough said).

Q: What can this genre(medium) provide that others cannot?

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD: Well, I think the biggest thing that inspired me to do it is, during the pandemic, they changed a lot of the guidelines with what ages we could vaccinate. And so, I started giving all types of vaccines, all different ones, to children 3 years and up. Whereas before, I only did flu shots for (children age) 12, and then other immunizations for (ages) 18 and up. And so now I have this whole new demographic, and they have a completely different experience than most adults. And so I was like, “I have to do something about this. They are terrified, it's not a good experience, (and) they don't understand what's going on.”

And I started looking for something like “Oh! Maybe I'll just buy a book that talks about it.” And I didn't see any out there that were, I guess, to my liking— they were very informational. They were kind of, you know, they have big concepts in them, and it just didn't seem like a child was going to understand it. So, I decided to just make one.

Q: How have people been responding to your book, Our Best Shot?

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD: I think the biggest benefit has been for parents, just because a lot of times they kind of will surprise the children with a vaccine. And I don't want them to ever do that. You can surprise them with Disney World, but coming to the pharmacy, it's not the best move for anybody. I understand, it's very difficult. But if you use this book as the tool, you can roleplay with the characters, if you prepare them understand that it's scary, and the main character, she goes and hides under her bed, she starts crying, these are the normal reactions children have. And I feel like a lot of times, their emotions are just kind of overlooked.

It's something they must do, and it's a part of life. But that doesn't mean we can't make it easier or make it a little bit more understandable for them, because they don't see the benefit… that it's a concept. You know, they see someone they don't know who comes in with a needle, and then they go home. It's not something that's scary, or that they overcome—they are helping a bunch of people. And they don't understand the concept, and so it's better to make the experience just easy for everyone and just make sure they understand their why— why they're doing it, why it's important, why it's kind of scary, and why it hurts a little bit.

Q: You say it’s hard for children to understand the “why” of getting a vaccine…why?

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD: It's kind of like school, like you don't understand the homework, you know, you have to do it. You know, they're just getting told a lot of things. I mean, I haven't been a child for a long time. But you know, a lot of these things, we just want to know why we don't know how to ask the questions. They don't know what they're supposed to ask, they don't know how to express their feelings. And so it just kind of makes the whole situation a lot harder than it has to be. And so that's why in the book, it talks about how you're helping not just yourself, but it's your family and your community. And it's everybody and that it's bigger than you and I don't think it's something that's touched much on, it's just like you have to get your shot. You know, it's very harsh.

Q: Did the pandemic help children to better understand the importance of vaccinations?

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD: I think the pandemic did, because I originally wrote the book about vaccines in general. But since I partnered with Families Fighting Flu, I made it just about flu shots and you can apply it to any vaccine. The COVID-19 pandemic was really scary for kids, especially when there were so many people dying from it. And I think it kind of became like get a shot or going to die. I got that a lot of that from kids. And so now they see that, and I want to stress the importance of the vaccine without that kind of fear that goes along with it. The pandemic definitely made that really, really hard.

Q: What challenges come with writing for this audiences?

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD: Honestly, one of the hardest thing is writing anything with immunization and vaccine those those words, there's really not much I learned about the whole concept of a near rhyme just because there's really not much to work with. So that part was kind of difficult. And then with the pictures, you know, I had one that, you know, the vaccine or the shot was this big. And I was like, “Oh, that's cool. It's like a superhero.” But then thinking about it, how a child sees that they're like,” Oh, my goodness, that's how big it's going to be!” And so just to kind of realize that the way that we think is very different from the way that they think. And I just kind of learned from my experiences with the children that I did vaccinate, just kind of what helped them. And so, I always tried to get them relaxed, like they want to hear goofy words. They want to hear that you need to wiggle and be like spaghetti and just all these kinds of things just to kind of see that you're a person, you're not there to hurt them. That you're a helper and you know, the more relaxed they are, the better experience it is, the less it's going to hurt.

Q: Do you have any notable pandemic vaccination stories that inspire the content of OBS?

Alexandria Yarborough, PharmD: The most difficult experience was a child that claimed that this was not the plan he had for him. His life, which I thought was a very interesting sentence from a 5-year-old. And there are some other things that he said he told his mother to take his hands off him. I did tell him to apologize to his mom, at the end of the end of the experience. I just felt like it was 100 times harder than it had to be. And so that was interesting. And honestly, the children aren't bad. They're just scared, they get that fear. So a lot of them, you know, the parents will understand they can sit on their lap, and so I explained that to them. Overall, they're, they're (vaccines are) not terrible. It's just the concept of them. But I think that's just the one experience that really stuck in my mind where, you know, I didn't want to interfere with the plans for his life at all. I definitely was here to help him, you know, reach all his goals, but the fact that the vaccine was interfering with that was Yeah, I told that story a lot.