RICHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Health says more than 36,000 16- and 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

They are the only age group of children that currently have an approved vaccine. Pfizer is approved for 16+.

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“In 16 and 17 we have seen greater case growth in those younger populations so we’re working with schools, looking to get 16- and 17-year-olds vaccinated,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

At a mobile vaccination site in Richfield, Gov. Tim Walz and Malcolm encouraged every Minnesotan, including eligible teenagers, to get the vaccine.

“The fact of the matter is every person who gets a shot reduces the chance of that happening, reduces the chance of community spread and gets us closer to putting this thing away for good,” Walz said.

Most children who get COVID will have mild to moderate symptoms but some will have severe cases, and in rare cases, may die.

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Infectious disease experts have said that ending the pandemic will likely require the vaccination of children to prevent the virus from further mutating into new variants.

The Mall of America community vaccination site is prioritizing 16- and 17 year-olds starting Tuesday until May 1. These types of clinics will also prioritize the teens’ families.

Malcolm says the goal is to educate parents about the data and help separate fact from any fiction.

“We want to meet people where they are and we want to give them the information to make good decisions,” Malcolm said.

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Experts say 12- to 15-year-olds could have an approved vaccine very soon.

Kate Raddatz