Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday revealed the state's plan to vaccinate children ages 5-11 against COVID-19 after an FDA advisory committee recommended the use of the Pfizer vaccine in younger kids.
The governor says the state has a "diverse network" of more than 1,100 providers that will administer the vaccine to kids once it gets the final green light from the FDA and CDC, and it will partner with schools to host vaccination clinics in order to reach people where they are.
“The state is prepared for this critical moment in the battle against COVID-19. Our goal is to ensure that the vaccine is widely, equitably, and efficiently available to all children ages 5-11," Gov. Walz said in a statement. "We’ll be ready to do our part when the federal government gives us the green light, and I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated when the shots are ready.”
The state says 530-plus medical clinics and 600-plus pharmacies statewide will administer vaccines to kids. And the community vaccination program at the Mall of America has tripled its capacity in order to provide 1,500 shots daily to kids 5-11 once the jab is authorized.
The state will partner with school districts and charter schools to host vaccination clinics in school buildings for kids and their families. Walz says this will help ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine, expand access to more kids and meet families where they are.
Hosting school vaccination clinics are among the "bold" efforts the state teachers union Education Minnesota is calling for in order to get more kids vaccinated and keep kids in school buildings learning.
Over the next four weeks, Walz says the state will partner with schools to host at least 20 school-based vaccination clinics in "high-need areas" around the state.
The Minnesota Department of Health's (MDH) COVID-19 Community Coordinators will also host clinics offering shots to kids and families.
The FDA panel on Tuesday recommended the FDA issue an emergency use authorization for the vaccine for kids ages 5-11 but state health officials are waiting on the FDA's official authorization and the CDC's recommendations before providers can start administering the jabs to that age group. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to meet about this Nov. 2-3.
“These vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly effective, and they are our best tools for protecting Minnesotans from COVID-19,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “The evidence shows COVID-19 can be severe and have long-lasting health impacts – sometimes even among young and healthy people. Getting your children vaccinated helps them stay safe during school, sports and other social activities.
"Plan ahead, talk to your family physician, and once your child is eligible, find a vaccine opportunity near you to get your child protected," Malcolm added.
Pfizer said its lower-dose vaccine is 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in kids 5-11.
The Pfizer vaccine has already gotten emergency use authorization for kids 12-15, and it has gotten full FDA approval for people 16 and older. Meanwhile, the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are available to people 18 and older.
The number of Minnesotans getting vaccinated against COVID continues to increase, albeit the rate at which people are getting the shot has plummeted since the spring.
In total, more than 3 million Minnesotans, or 70% of people 12 and older, have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series. That includes more than 153,000 kids ages 12-15 and 84,702 kids ages 16-17.