Jun 21, 2022 - COVID

COVID vaccines begin for Minnesota preschoolers and infants

Illustration of a stack of wooden toy blocks showing a syringe, a COVID cell and a cotton swab.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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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