Mayo concentrating on getting children vaccinated

Published 6:17 pm Friday, May 21, 2021

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Minnesotans have been gathering to COVID-19 vaccination sites in high numbers and now is the time for the next age bracket to step up.

With a vaccine approval for 12-15 year olds, children have been able to line up to get their shot. So far, there have been 1,600 doses handed out to children in Rochester, 600 in northwestern Wisconsin and 700 in southwest Wisconsin. The nation has already seen 600,000 children under 16 vaccinated.

Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist for Mayo Clinic Children’s Center said the addition of a new age group is another bright light in a time of recovery.

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“The response from teens and families has been very positive. We’ve had walk-in clinics which are a convenient way to get a vaccine,” Rajapakse said. “We’ve really seen the mental health impact on this population and it’s nice to see the smiles on their faces when they talk about this summer. They have a lot more hope than they may have had last summer.”

The side effects of the vaccine for teens are similar to what adults have experienced. Those effects include a sore arm, a fever and body aches.

Graham Briggs, director of Olmsted County Health, said that the vaccines have brought down rates of COVID-19 as there were just 83 COVID-19 cases in Olmsted County last week. That number is the lowest since September of 2020.

In total, 70 percent of those over 16 years old in Olmsted County are now vaccinated.

Not only will the vaccine help keep families safe, it will make life much more convenient for families, who have grown tired of two-week quarantines. Briggs said that parents will no longer have to worry about their kid staying home for quarantines if they are vaccinated.

“There is a hassle that a family has to go through when a family member is diagnosed with COVID-19 (or contact),” Briggs said. “One of the big incentives is if your kid is playing summer soccer and someone on the team gets COVID-19, they can go back to practice the next day and go back to normal if your kid is vaccinated.”

Rajapaske pointed out that children should still be keeping up with their regular immunizations and they may take those along with the COVID-19 vaccine if the timing works out.

“In the last year, many children have fallen behind on their immunizations and it’s really important to make sure that kids are immunized against all of the other vaccine preventable illnesses,” she said.

The next age bracket for the vaccine will be children aged 2-11. Vaccines for that age group could be available as early as next fall.

With each new vaccination, the fight against COVID-19 has become more of a winning battle for the country.

“It’s been really heartening to see what’s happening with numbers,” Rajapaske said. “We’re seeing the lowest COVID-19 numbers across the country in quite some time.”