COVID-19 shots begin going into arms (and legs) of the littlest Minnesotans

A woman reacts
Mary Navara reacted after her grandchildren, 3-year-old Freya and 8-month-old Griffin, received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at the Mall of America vaccination site on Wednesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Updated: 9:58 a.m.

After a long wait through a school year and omicron’s latest wave, parents are now able to bring their youngest children to get COVID-19 vaccinations at the Mall of America.

Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized the two-dose-course Moderna vaccine, and three-dose-course Pfizer vaccine, for kids between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old.

The decision couldn’t come soon enough for Deondre Ham, who said he and his wife recently went on a cruise and couldn't bring their youngest, the now 7-month-old Jaeden, because he couldn’t get vaccinated.

“To be able to have Pfizer vaccines for early as 6 months is great for us because we can move around without having our kid feeling unsafe,” Ham said.

Initially when the shot comes, there are some tears.

A kid looks on
Deondre Ham holds 7-month-old Jaeden before the child receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at the Mall of America, as brother Bryan helps.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

After his shot, 4-year-old big brother Bryan selects a sticker. He leans over and whispers to Jaeden, “It’s gonna be ok.”

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Befitting the mega-mall location, the state-run COVID-19 vaccination site is a huge space, decorated with bright colors, balloons and pictures of popular characters, like SpongeBob SquarePants and Baby Yoda.

Nurse Denise Buckner said the toys, colorful bandages and stickers are there to make the process easier on children. In her view, kids between 6 months and 5 years old are usually a little calmer during the shot.

syringes are seen
Syringes containing COVID-19 doses for 6-month to 4-year-old children await use at the Mall of America vaccination site.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“I think that they’re lap sitters, so it makes them a little bit mellow, just because you're with your parents,” Buckner said. “And then older kids, they just know what's going on. So it just makes it a little bit difficult.”

While several parents said they were excited to go on vacations or send their kids to camp without worrying as much about the virus, others are just glad that day-to-day life will be easier.

Margaret Richter said having her 4-year-old son, Colin, in preschool while he wasn't able to get vaccinated was stressful.

A kid receives Covid-19 vaccination
Colin Richter, 4, receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“He actually did contract COVID-19 from his preschool,” Richter said. “That was back in January. And then we all got it. So yeah, I feel like we've been waiting a long time. And we're really excited to all be vaccinated now.”

After Colin got his shot, he grabbed three stickers and went off with his parents to get cotton candy.

The Mall of America vaccination clinic is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are required and can be made online.

Additionally, the state Health Department says that vaccine doses for kids in this age range are being made available to some providers, Minute Clinics and pharmacies across the state.

Correction (June 23, 2022): A caption in the lead image of this post incorrectly identified Griffin. The caption has been updated.

Stickers and bandaids
Stickers and bandaids to give to children after vaccinations.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News