Moving to normal: Kids 5 to 11 begin getting their COVID-19 vaccine shots

Published 6:35 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

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Eleven-year-old Liam Kirby closed his eyes and awaited the inevitable Wednesday afternoon at Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Austin West.

Little sister Sophia Kirby, 7, with the help of her mom Kelly Kirby, awaited that same moment — and both of them came out like champs having received their first of two COVID-19 vaccine shots.

It was a long-awaited moment for Kelly, who works at Mayo herself, as she watched both of her children smile after the shot.

Liam and Sophia Kirby get ready for their COVID-19 vaccine shot Wednesday afternoon. Eric Johnson/

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“I kind of feel like this is historical,” Kelly said. “I want my kids and my family to be one of those that is going down in history to be one of the first people to get that vaccine and help get America vaccinated and move towards a normal life again.”

The Kirby’s were simply the latest in Austin to receive their first dose of the vaccine since last Friday, when it became available for 5- to 11-year-olds.

Kristina Grunzke, M.A.N. R.N., said that staff have had around 40 visits a day since the vaccine started being administered to children.

It shares some similarities to when the vaccine was first rolled out at the end of 2020.

“It’s a hurry up and wait process,” she said as the Kirby’s headed for the exit. “It’s been wonderful for the family members that choose this way to go with their kids.”

So far, child vaccinations are only taking place in Mayo’s west building, but that is due mostly to supply as the hospital works to establish a solid supply chain for the vaccine.

“This is exactly how it was when we first went live with vaccines almost a year ago,” Grunzke said. “Getting the supply from Minnesota takes just a little bit longer. We wanted to make sure we got our vaccine sites covered first and then be able to proceed with our aftercare soon.”

It’s been a welcome moment in time in Minnesota as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive case numbers and deaths in the state, primarily by the delta variant.

There’s even been concern of an impending fifth wave as schools and events move inside for winter events.

But it doesn’t take the moment away for parents across the area, the state and the nation who have spent many moments concerned their child might be the next to get COVID or pass it on.

“It’s very stressful. You’re questioning every sniffle that they have,” Kelly Kirby said. “Is this COVID or not? Do we need to stay in quarantine because of a sniffle? I think having this COVID vaccine will help give us a little more reassurance knowing that even if they do get it, it probably will be less severe.”

With help from her mom Kelly Kirby, Sophia Kirby gets the finishing touches of her COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday at Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Austin West Buliding. Eric Johnson/

Five to 11-year-olds are the second group of children okayed for vaccination, coming after 12- to 17-year-olds began getting vaccinated earlier this year. So far, it’s only the Pfizer vaccine.

But it’s also a big step in the COVID war in general as officials hope that this help further advance against a pandemic that has created so much havoc.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 200 million people have been fully vaccinated with just over 26 million receiving a booster shot.

With more of the population able to be vaccinated, it’s hoped that healthcare workers can get a better hold on the pandemic.

“I think we’re all just hoping that if we can get to a certain point of percentage of children vaccinated, that school can maybe go back to some kind of normalcy,” Kelly Kirby said. “In my head, I want to say it’s a turning point. I really hope that once we get these children vaccinated that we can have more freedom.”

For Grunzke, it’s been inspiring to see healthcare workers get to this point.

“We have an amazing crew here at the Mayo Clinic and especially at the immunization clinic, who are doing these mass vaccination sites for the public,” she said. “I greatly appreciate the work of the nurses and the docs and all of the other teams  that go into this and keep it up and functioning.”

For Liam Kirby, it’s just a reason to smile.

“It’s better than last year because I didn’t want to get (COVID) last year,” he said.