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With 2021 school year approaching, child COVID vaccination rates still lag

In many counties, fewer than half of all eligible children have received even one dose.

With the school year looming and most students expected to return to in-person learning, child vaccination rates lag behind the state's overall figures, with vaccination rates in many rural counties particularly far behind.

The state, in its Aug. 23 update, reported 58.9% of Minnesota residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 55.1% have completed a vaccine series.

The two child groups who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine — 12- to 15-year-olds, and 16- to 17-year-olds — each show lower rates.

Among the 12-15 age group, 48% have received at least one dose, while 39% have completed their vaccine series. And for those 16-17, 56% have at least one dose, while 50% have completed a series.

The state is, to this point, leaving COVID-19 mitigation measures in the hands of individual school districts and schools leaders. There is no vaccination or mask mandate in effect from the state level, with leaders referring to it as a local decision

Related: List of Twin Cities school districts with, without, and undecided on mask mandate

Gov. Tim Walz's office launched a "Vax to School" campaign to increase the vaccination rate ahead of the school year, and two weeks in noted a marked increase in the pace of vaccinations among the two youngest eligible age groups. 

But with one week remaining in August, most 12- to 15-year-olds haven't received even one shot.

All of this is happening against a troubling backdrop: Increases in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among children nationwide in recent weeks. 

On a county-by-county basis, many rural counties lag behind the statewide figures, as well as most of the Twin Cities metro counties.

In 66 of Minnesota's 87 counties, fewer than half of 16- and 17-year-olds have at least one dose of a vaccine. And the one dose vaccination rate for ages 12-15 remains below 50% in 75 Minnesota counties.

Here is a look at the 10 counties with the highest one-dose vaccination rate for kids 12-15:

County name12-15 vaxx rate (min. 1 shot)

Olmsted

67%

Hennepin

63%

Washington

62%

Carver

60%

Dakota

59%

Ramsey

58%

Scott

55%

Lake

54%

Nicollet

54%

Winona

52%

And here are the 10 counties with the highest one-dose vaccination rate among 16- to 17-year-olds:

County name16-17 vaxx rate (min. 1 dose)

Olmsted

76%

Hennepin

70%

Washington

69%

Dakota

69%

Carver

68%

Ramsey

66%

Nicollet

63%

Rice

58%

Big Stone

58%

Anoka

57%

On the opposite end of the list, nine counties have a 12-15, one-dose vaccination rate of 20% or worse:

County name12-15 vaxx rate (min. 1 shot)

Clearwater

13%

Wadena

14%

Todd

15%

Lake of the Woods

19%

Meeker

19%

Mille Laces

20%

Pine

20%

Pipestone

20%

Renville

20%

And 15 counties have a one-dose vaccination rate for 16- and 17-year-olds under 30%:

County name16-17 vaxx rate (min. 1 shot)

Todd

21%

Lake of the Woods

21%

Jackson

22%

Clearwater

25%

Wadena

25%

Meeker

25%

Morrison

25%

Pine

26%

Koochiching

26%

Mille Lacs

27%

Mahnomen

27%

Wilkin

28%

Pipestone

29%

Sibley

29%

Yellow Medicina

29%

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