Everything you need to know about teenagers and the COVID-19 vaccine in MN

A woman gets a vaccine.
Ashia Rivers, 17, of Havre De Grace, Md., gets her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus while sitting in the back seat of her family car at the mass vaccination site in early May.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Updated: May 13, 6 a.m. | Posted: May 12, 7 a.m.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now available to an expanded group of Minnesotans — including people between the ages of 12 and 15.

Until this week, the Pfizer shots had only been authorized for patients 16 and older. 

But on Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded eligibility to younger adolescents with an emergency use authorization. Federal health advisers endorsed the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12.

State health officials say they hope vaccinating more young people will help slow the spread of the virus in Minnesota. 

"As we got our elders vaccinated, and older adults vaccinated, we saw a shift in where the cases were occurring, and saw more and more cases in younger ages and in the school-age population," said state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann.

A spokesperson for the state health department said the agency has been working with the Minnesota Department of Education to prepare for the expanded eligibility, planning clinics in schools across the state. 

But where to begin? If you’ve got an eligible or soon-to-be-eligible teen in your life, here’s a guide to getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota. We’ll continue to update this guide as details become available.

Who’s eligible for the vaccine? 

All Minnesotans 12 and older are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. 

When will all teenagers be eligible for the vaccine?

Children ages 12 to 15 can start to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday across Minnesota, after federal health advisers endorsed the Pfizer vaccine for younger children Wednesday afternoon. The decision means that the roughly 300,000 12- through 15-year-olds in the state are now eligible to get vaccinated.

Many health care providers have already scheduled school-based clinics.

The Minnesota Department of Health had said it will wait until the CDC’s advisory group sends out its guidance for providers on vaccinating younger teens before opening its state-run vaccination sites to 12- to 15-year-olds.

Which vaccine can teenagers get?

Three COVID-19 vaccines — made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — have been authorized for use in the United States. 

Only one of those vaccines — the two-dose Pfizer version — is available for patients 16 and older. If the CDC’s vaccine advisory panel issues its approval and guidance on Wednesday, eligibility will be expanded to patients 12 and older. 

In both cases, the Pfizer vaccine available to younger patients is the same vaccine and dose level that’s currently being given to adults.

The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-dose Moderna vaccine are authorized for patients 18 and older. 

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are conducting trials on patients between the ages of 12 and 17 — and Pfizer is conducting clinical trials for children as young as 6 months old. The company has indicated that it may seek emergency use authorization for vaccine use in younger children later this year. 

Where can teenagers get vaccinated?

Any health care provider or clinic that is administering the Pfizer vaccine should be able to provide it to members of this newly authorized age group. That includes state-run vaccination sites in the Twin Cities and across the state, as well as pharmacies and popup clinics, too.

But the state health department has also said it’s been working closely with the Minnesota Department of Education on preparing for this week’s announcement, and officials say to expect a lot of school districts to offer vaccine clinics on site. 

As of last week, officials at the Children’s Minnesota health system said they were in talks with Twin Cities-area schools about coordinating on clinics.

How can I find an appointment specifically for a vaccine approved for teens?

In addition to school-based clinics and other teen-focused vaccination events, there are several ways to locate vaccines approved for teenagers.

MDH vaccine finder. The state health department’s vaccine finder tool allows users to search for a vaccine by location or provider type. Some providers specifically note if they’re offering vaccines authorized for use in teenagers — but if it’s unclear, contact a provider to double-check before you make an appointment.

Minnesota Vaccine Connector. On this site run by the state health department, you can sign up for an alert whenever vaccine appointments open up near you.  

VaccineSpotter. This volunteer-run vaccine search allows users to search by location and by vaccine maker. Limit your search to Pfizer-made vaccines only, when making appointments for teens.

Community vaccine clinics.  The state health department operates several semi-permanent and pop-up community clinics statewide. They have specific hours, and only some offer vaccines authorized for teenagers, but they don’t require an appointment, and take walk-in patients every day they’re open.

Hospital systems. Many health care providers are offering vaccines to their teenage patients — and each system works within its own set of parameters. Some have said they won’t start to vaccinate young teens immediately. If you have a regular doctor or other health care provider, check in with them to see if they have appointments available for your teenager. In addition:

Pharmacies. Most national and regional pharmacy chains in Minnesota have vaccine appointments available to teenagers. Just make sure to confirm that your appointment is for the Pfizer vaccine, when scheduling for a teen.

If you have questions about the state-run clinics you can call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 833-431-2053 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

How do I know my teenager is signed up for the right vaccine?

Check with your provider when you make the vaccination appointment for your teenager, to be sure it’s for the Pfizer vaccine. 

Some providers administer more than one manufacturer’s vaccine, so it’s best to confirm you’re signed up for the one you need.

Do kids need parent’s or guardian’s permission to get vaccinated?

Generally speaking, parents or guardians must give permission before adolescents get vaccinated, though there are exemptions from that rule in certain situations.

If a parent or guardian accompanies a teen to their vaccine appointment, they will be able to give consent in person, or to sign an approval form. Some providers also send the approval forms to patients ahead of time.

The state does not require a photo ID for anyone getting a COVID-19 vaccine — and state health officials say that won’t change, as eligible groups expand.

What does the vaccine cost? 

The vaccine is free. The federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine as part of its national response to the coronavirus; it’s buying the vaccine from the manufacturers and distributing it to the states.

If you are asked for your bank account, credit card or Social Security number — or payment of any kind — it is a scam. But keep in mind that you may be asked for your insurance information when you arrive for your appointment.

What do we need to know about preparing for a teenager’s vaccination appointment?

The state Health Department recommends in general that patients wait 14 days before or after getting their COVID-19 vaccine to get immunized for other diseases, from shingles to tetanus and diphtheria.

A health department spokesperson said MDH is working with providers to ensure that they don’t administer other vaccines at the same time they administer the COVID-19 vaccine to a single patient.

When can we expect approval for COVID-19 vaccines in younger kids?

Pfizer is conducting clinical trials for children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old. The company has indicated that it may seek emergency use authorization for vaccine use in younger children later this year. 

COVID-19 in Minnesota

Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health's cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.

The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.