COVID vaccines begin for Minnesota preschoolers and infants
COVID-19 vaccine appointments are now available for Minnesota kids as young as 6 months.
Why it matters: Children under 5 were the last group without access to the shots and the protection from severe illness they provide.
- For parents who have been anxiously awaiting this milestone, the approval is a huge relief.
Yes, but: It remains unclear how strong uptake of the shot will be, given relatively low COVID vaccination rates among children in the older cohorts, Axios' Tina Reed reports.
The big picture: While children are less likely than adults to become seriously ill, data shows kids under 5 having the highest COVID hospitalization rates among all youths.
- "It doesn't really matter if it's less than 1% if it's your kid that's been hospitalized," Sheyanga Beecher, a nurse practitioner who serves as project director of Hennepin Healthcare's Pediatric Mobile Health program, told Axios.
What they're hearing: Beecher says reaction from parents has ranged from anticipation to questions about everything from side effects to whether they should try to time the shots to maximize immunity for back-to-school or another wave.
- She encourages vaccination now to protect children and the surrounding community by reducing the risk of serious illness and transmission.
Plus, Pfizer's three-dose schedule means a child who gets the first shot this summer will be fully vaccinated around the start of the upcoming school year, she noted.
The details: Parents can make appointments for the Pfizer shot at the state-run vaccination clinic at the Mall of America now. Multiple time slots were available throughout the week as of Monday morning.
- Health systems and pediatricians' offices are also rolling out programs.
- An Allina spokesperson told Axios they expect to begin scheduling appointments this week, with first doses going into arms and legs next week.
- Mayo Clinic, meanwhile, is aiming for the first week in July, per MPR News.
The bottom line: The benefits of vaccinating the youngest Minnesotans go beyond the children themselves, experts say.
- "It's not just that it protects the child but the child then is less likely to transmit to potentially more vulnerable adults," Dawn Martin, a Hennepin Healthcare pediatrician who serves as director of the mobile project and co-chair of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Immunization Work Group, told Axios.
- "This milestone is a huge step forward really in strengthening that circle of protection.”
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