Vaccine clinics for younger children expand in Minnesota

A young girl in a pink shirt gets a shot in her arm from a nurse.
Brett Percy, who is part of the Mississippi Band of Ojibwe, holds his niece, 5-year-old Jacqueline, as she gets her COVID-19 vaccine at Cityview Community School in Minneapolis on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Sixteen Minnesota schools hosted COVID-19 vaccine clinics for children 5 to 11 years old to receive their shots Thursday.

At one clinic in the gymnasium of Brooklyn Center Elementary, Gov. Tim Walz said there were more than 11,000 sites in the state where children ages 5 to 11 would be able to get the Pfizer vaccine, recently given emergency use approval in the age group.

“It’s important for us to make sure that we’re combining safety, speed and equity and that’s taking vaccines to where kids are,” Walz told reporters. “Whether it be their local pharmacy, whether it be the Mall of America, whether it be their pediatrician, or — the one that makes a lot of sense to many of us — at their child’s school.”

Approximately 175 children were signed up for appointments at the Brooklyn Center Elementary clinic on the first day.

Education Commissioner Heather Mueller said the school clinics required consent and were asking parents to accompany their children to appointments.

“That’s why we are offering it before school, there are after school opportunities, there are weekend opportunities because families work at a variety of times throughout the day,” Mueller said.

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Minnesota officials said getting children vaccinated was important not only to protect kids’ health, but also to protect the health of others in their family and community.

“We are still very much in the midst of this wave and we know that unfortunately a lot of the recent spread is happening in children and from younger children to the broader community,” said state health commissioner Jan Malcolm. “Especially with the year-end holidays coming up, this is such a critical time and a great opportunity to deepen the vaccine protection — especially for our youngest.”

Dr. Madeleine Gagnon, a pediatrician and mother of two newly-eligible boys, urged parents to get the shots for their children, as hers had. She understands that some families may not feel the urgency since children typically get mildly sick with COVID, if at all.

“We are concerned about the long-term health side effects they may have as they age and develop and now that's preventable,” Gagnon said.

Schools in Minneapolis and Duluth also hosted vaccine clinics for younger children Thursday.

St. Paul schools are rolling out in-school clinics at two schools, starting next week. Ramsey County will offer child vaccines at community center clinics starting Nov. 10.

Hennepin County public health officials said they will start finalizing child vaccination clinics in the next few days.