Younger teens start receiving COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Vaccine clinics across the Twin Cities started offering appointments — and in some cases actual doses of COVID-19 vaccine — to adolescents age 12 to 15 on Thursday.

Children’s Minnesota, the state’s largest pediatric hospital, expects to immunize about 400 in the age group Thursday using vaccine made by the drug company Pfizer.

“Any place that has previously been giving Pfizer vaccine, they are likely still giving Pfizer vaccine and parents can access it that way,” said Patsy Stinchfield, the hospital’s senior director of infection prevention and control.

Noting that a state website lists vaccine sources, Stinchfield said: “Some have walk-in abilities at the pharmacies. Others are offering appointments.”

Adolescents were getting immunized Thursday at Essentia Health in Duluth. In Minneapolis, Allina Health System announced it would start offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments immediately for people 12 and older — both to established patients and others — for shots beginning next week.

“Being able to vaccinate our younger community members is the best way to protect them from getting sick or spreading COVID-19,” said Dr. John Misa, chief medical officer at Allina Health Group, in a statement.

At Children’s, a few adolescents 12 to 15 actually started receiving vaccine on Wednesday night, Stinchfield said, after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adopted an advisory recommendation to expand use of the Pfizer vaccine. The hospital reached out to existing patients to schedule appointments.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday reported 1,011 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths linked to the illness. More than 2.68 million Minnesotans have received at least one dose.

The Pfizer vaccine is one of three being used in the U.S., and the CDC’s recommendation Wednesday came with encouragement for providers to start using it “right away,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director, in a statement. Though most children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, some children can get severely ill, Walensky said, adding that broad protection “means vaccinating as many people as possible who are eligible.”

“This official CDC action opens vaccination to approximately 17 million adolescents in the United States and strengthens our nation’s efforts to protect even more people from the effects of COVID-19,” she said in the statement.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.

Health officials hope the expanded use will help build momentum for vaccination in Minnesota, where the pace of immunizations has slowed significantly in recent weeks.

In early April, the state’s seven-day rolling average for first doses peaked at about 40,000 per day, according to the Star Tribune’s vaccination tracker, but has since fallen to a daily average of fewer than 11,000 first doses.

The state says nearly 2.23 million people now have completed a one-dose or two-dose vaccine series.

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz announced the statewide mask mandate to slow COVID-19 will end July 1, but could go away sooner — once 70% of state residents 16 or older get a first dose of vaccine.

Hennepin County, the state’s most populous, has become the third in Minnesota along with Cook and Olmsted to hit the 70% mark.

The goal is based on first-dose COVID-19 vaccinations among those who received their shots in Minnesota, Wisconsin or North Dakota. Snowbirds or people who received shots in other states aren’t counted unless they file proof with the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC).

The state vaccination totals also don’t include people who received shots at federal sites such as the Minneapolis VA Medical Center or the Indian Health Service.

Minnesota will continue to measure the 70% goal based on vaccinations of people 16 and older, despite the new eligibility for people 12 to 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

With Thursday’s data release, the seven-day rolling average for new cases continued a trend of declining tallies over the past month. The reading now stands at about 1,031 cases per day, according to the Star Tribune’s coronavirus tracker, down from an average of more than 2,300 new cases per day in mid-April.

The 19 deaths linked to COVID-19 reported Thursday was a relatively high number compared with other one-day readings this spring. It pushed up the seven-day rolling average to about 10 deaths per day. New hospital admissions, however, continued to trend lower on Thursday.

Residents of long-term care or assisted-living facilities accounted for six of the 19 newly announced deaths.

Since Minnesota started detecting virus infections in March 2020, the state has reported 591,445 positive cases, 31,241 hospitalizations and 7,274 deaths.

Data on COVID-19 cases and deaths released Thursday morning were current as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. Vaccination numbers were current as of Tuesday.

Staff writer Jeremy Olson and data editor C. J. Sinner contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-7744