Furry faces greet children at COVID-19 vaccination clinic

27 October 2022

Two special furry friends greeted children receiving their COVID-19 vaccination at the Alastair Farquharson Centre this morning (Thursday 27 October).

Lilly, a 12 year-old cocker spaniel, and Fletch, a 4 year-old cockapoo, with owners Andrew Skingley and Sue Shaw from Pets As Therapy (PAT) delighted children with plenty of cuddles as they received their COVID-19 vaccine at the centre in Thurrock Community Hospital, Grays.

Thurrock Council funded the donation for the Pets As Therapy visit to the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) October half-term clinic, using funds received from the government under the national Community Vaccine Champions (CVC) scheme fund.

Cllr Deborah Arnold, Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: "Therapy animals can provide numerous benefits, particularly at stressful or anxious times, by offering a much needed and welcome distraction. I’m pleased that children in Thurrock having their COVID-19 vaccine at this clinic at the Alastair Farquharson Centre have been greeted by two very friendly faces!"

The NHS continues to offer first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, plus boosters for eligible children, to those aged between 5 to 11 years-old. The COVID-19 vaccine reduces the severity of symptoms and the risk of hospitalisation.

Amanda Secular, Clinical Manager for the centre, said: "We know vaccinations can be a stressful experience for some people, especially children.

"Our vaccinators are fully trained to work with children and anxious patients, and our children’s clinics are specially designed to make our younger patients' experience as stress-free as possible. We regularly have things like toys, colouring books and snacks on hand to help children feel at ease.

"We are delighted to be working with Pets As Therapy on this special clinic."

Clare Davis, Chief Executive for Pets As Therapy, said: "It's great that PAT Volunteers have attended the vaccination centre in Thurrock and shared their fabulous PAT Dogs with others. The joy on the faces of young people who get to interact with a friendly pet speaks volumes, and suddenly any fear or worries about getting a jab disappear. I’m also thrilled that families will be able to experience the benefits of visiting PAT Teams. If you’re a dog owner and would like to volunteer, please consider joining our PAT family.”

The government CVC funding granted to Thurrock Council is being used to help hesitant residents, or those who struggled to access the vaccine, through dedicated partnership work with EPUT, Community Health Champions in conjunction with Thurrock CVS, and local organisations. In total, 4,052 people have received a COVID-19 vaccination at EPUT bus locations and at pop-up clinics in the borough since the Community Health Champions began working with residents in the borough in April 2022.

More information on the COVID-19 vaccination, eligibility and clinics in Thurrock at and NHS: walk-in vaccination sites. Parents and carers can read more guidance at GOV.UK: a guide for parents of children aged 5 to 11 years.

Find out more about Pets As Therapy at

Photo below: 11 year-old Sophia, who had her second COVID-19 vaccination, with Lilly the cocker spaniel.