By Antony Paone
MEAUX, France (Reuters) - France has started giving the COVID-19 jab to children as young as 5, and one vaccination centre is adapting to its audience: a life-size Pikachu mascot strolls through the waiting room, and patients get a certificate for bravery.
"When a child arrives here, he needs to feel happy or at the very least not worried," said Christian Allard, the doctor running the children's vaccination centre in Meaux, 50 km (31 miles) east of Paris.
"That's why I made sure that we would pay attention to the settings, the decoration."
France has moved further than many other wealthy nations to make COVID-19 vaccinations available to young children.
Since Dec. 22 last year, eligibility for the shots has been widened to include all 5-11 year-olds. Previously, only children in that age group who were medically at risk had qualified.
Children whose parents or guardians want them to be vaccinated are given a special version of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, which contains one third the dose of the regular version.
Celine Stupka brought her 11-year-old daughter Maeline to the Meaux vaccination centre on Wednesday.
She said she was worried Maeline could pass the virus on to her grandparents, especially as recorded daily case numbers in France have neared 300,000 this week, a record for the whole pandemic.
"Since the return to school this year it's a catastrophe in the country and it scares us a bit," said Stupka.
"We had been waiting for children's vaccination to open because I think it's the children who carry it, they're maybe not always ill but they spread it around them."
(Reporting by Antony Paone; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones)