This week at least 18 more Minnesota schools are expected to offer COVID-19 vaccines to their students.
The effort comes after federal officials last week approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 to 11 years old — an age group in which a lot of new cases of the virus have emerged as children headed back to school this fall.
The schools working with the Minnesota Department of Health to offer vaccinations this week include locations in Duluth, Minneapolis and Mankato. Other districts, including St. Paul Public Schools, will host vaccine clinics in partnership with local public health offices.
At an M Health Fairview vaccine clinic at Cityview Community School in north Minneapolis last week, Dr. Emily Borman-Shoap said offering shots in places kids would normally go — like schools — makes it easier for parents to get their kids immunized.
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“We know that some families may face more challenges accessing health care easily, or may not have a trusted provider,” she said. “So partnering with a school that’s a trusted place — it really helps our communities make sure that everybody has access to this protection on the first day we could get it.”
Borman-Shoap said the vaccines are very safe and effective, after being studied on thousands of kids already.
“My job as a pediatrician is to give you the best advice on how to keep your kids safe and healthy. So I'd never advise something that I thought would be harmful for them,” she said.
Brett Percy was at Cityview Community School with his son Joseph, 10. Percy said his family is seeking some normalcy.
We’re “basically here to do our part to get over the pandemic, move on with life,” he said.
"I just wanted not to get COVID,” said Joseph.
Parents must consent to having their children immunized in school. In some cases, parents may be required to be present, too.
This week, state officials say they expect to have about 255,000 first vaccine doses for kids 5 to 11 at locations around the state — enough to immunize about half the kids in that age group.
"This is not like the beginning with the adult vaccinations, where there just wasn't enough supply. It's just going to get easier and easier as more and more sites have the vaccine," State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Sunday outside a kids' COVID vaccine clinic taking place at the Minnesota Children's Museum in downtown St. Paul.
Speaking alongside Malcolm outside the children's museum, Gov. Tim Walz said community vaccination clinics like that one are another way to get the COVID vaccine to everyone who wants one.
"We want the barriers to be as low as possible. We want them to be as comfortable as possible. And we want them to be as convenient as possible," Walz said. "Parents work during the week. So being able to do it on the weekend ... in such an inviting space is critically important."
Parents can get their kids vaccinated at pharmacies and health care clinics as well.