Some of western Quebec's youngest residents have rolled up their sleeves to get their first COVID-19 vaccine.
Children between the ages of five and 11 across the country are now eligible to receive shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after Health Canada granted approval late last week.
On Wednesday, the first children in the Outaouais did just that.
"It is truly a new era of immunization ... We have every reason to believe that things will go well," Nency Héroux, director of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for the Outaouais, told Radio-Canada in French.
Registration opened online through the Clic-Santé website Tuesday. By Wednesday, Héroux said around 7,000 of the 22,000 time slots in the Outaouais had already been filled, with new ones added as needed.
Parents are urged to make an appointment through the online system, but walk-in appointments will be available Saturdays at the Palais des Congrès between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
In Ottawa, first doses are expected to be available by Friday.
Western Quebec health officials have acknowledged some parents may be hesitant, however, for their children to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Carol McConnery, a medical consultant in infectious diseases with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO), invited parents to learn more about the vaccine through reliable websites or people they trust like their doctor or pharmacist.
"There are already three million doses that have been administered in the United States to five-to-11-year-olds in the last two weeks and they have seen very few side effects and no serious side effects," she said in a French-language interview.
The appointments offered to younger children in the Outaouais will be dedicated entirely to them, the health unit said.
Other measures include broadcasting children's television programs in waiting areas, Héroux said, and offering surprises after they receive their first dose. Support dogs will also be on-hand during certain time slots.
Both Elisabeth Mertens' children — eight-year-old Antoine and 10-year-old Jade — received their vaccines Wednesday afternoon.
"It's important to us ... it is a social responsibility," said Mertens. "We cannot wait to get back to normal."
Jade acknowledged she was "a little" scared, but "it wasn't bad" afterwards. She said she's looking forward to more normal family reunions around the holiday season.
"We're going to be able to have fun with our grandparents, our friends," she said.
On Monday, CISSSO will begin vaccinating children in schools, visiting 54 locations where students with a parental consent form will be eligible for their first dose.
Héroux said students at other schools in the region can be transported to one of those sites for their shot, as well as one of the six vaccination centres.
Quebec Premier François Legault has said the aim is to offer a first dose to all families who wish to have their young children vaccinated by Christmas. The second dose would then be offered eight weeks later, from mid-January onwards.