MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — State officials have laid out their plans for getting 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated for COVID, following the FDA advisory committee’s recommendation of the Pfizer shot for children in that group.

The state says that a network of more than 1,100 health providers — including pharmacies, pediatricians, state-run community clinics, schools, local public health agencies, and tribal health agencies — are prepared to oversee and administer vaccines to families. That figure includes more than 530 pediatric and family medicine clinics.

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Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Wednesday that the first shipment of vaccines will include 170,000 doses for vaccine providers and just under 85,000 going to pharmacies.

The state also says plans are underway to partner with school districts and charter schools to host vaccination clinics in school buildings for children and families, which a majority of respondents have said they would be interested in.

“The state is prepared for this critical moment in the battle against COVID-19. Our goal is to ensure that the vaccine is widely, equitably, and efficiently available to all children ages 5-11. We’ll be ready to do our part when the federal government gives us the green light, and I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated when the shots are ready,” Gov. Tim Walz said.

Since July 1 in Minnesota, and as students have largely returned to in-person classes, there have been more than 45,200 pediatric cases and more than 300 child hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Brynn Juranek told WCCo she is counting down the days to be able to vaccinate her 5-year-old.

“I’m excited,” Juranek said. “Obviously I would love to have them all covered but having one covered will protect the rest of our family.”

The majority of children do survive COVID-19, if they contract it. But health officials say serious cases do happen in otherwise healthy kids, including more than 100 Minnesota children who have developed a rare complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.

“We also know it can have long-term consequences and frankly we’re still just beginning to understand that picture, especially in kids,” Malcolm said.

The state shared the following information for families looking to get a vaccination for their eligible children:

Minnesota providers cannot begin vaccinating children until the CDC issues final recommendations, which could come later next week. Once CDC has approved the vaccine for 5-11 and your child is eligible, Minnesota families can:

    • Check with their pediatrician or family medicine clinic about appointments;
    • Visit mn.gov/vaccine to use the Vaccine Locator Map to locate and contact providers near them;
    • Utilize the CDC’s Vaccine Finder at vaccines.gov to find pharmacies offering pediatric vaccinations; or
    • Look to your local school district for more information about vaccination opportunities in your child’s school.
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Meanwhile, Minnesota health officials Wednesday reported an additional 1,810 virus cases and 31 more deaths due to COVID-19.

Minnesota’s latest rolling seven-day average positivity rate continues to trend down after peaking earlier in the month, now at 7.1% from 8.5% earlier in October.

There are also a reported 40 daily new cases per 100,000 Minnesota residents, which although it puts the state well above the line considered high risk,  also represents a downward trend after peaking above 50.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health’s daily update, the state’s total positive cases have risen to 781,548 since the pandemic began, with 8,612 deaths attributed to the virus.

As of Wednesday morning, figures from the Minnesota Department of Health showed that about 74.5% of Minnesotans 16 or older had received at least one vaccine dose, and 94.8% of those 65 or older had received at least one dose. In total, the state has administered 6,827,975 doses of vaccine, with about 3.29 million residents having completed their vaccine series.

There have been more than 312,000 vaccine booster shots given to eligible Minnesotans.

Total ICU bed usage among COVID-19 patients is at 220. Additionally, there are currently 691 COVID-19 patients being hospitalized in non-ICU beds. Many hospitals in the state are reporting being stretched close to capacity as these figures continue to remain high. The rate of deaths being reported is roughly double what it was a month ago. The rate of new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 residents is at 13.1.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty got their booster shots Tuesday. Both had gotten the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine together back in March. This time, Walz got the Moderna booster after a conversation with his doctor. Pawlenty got another Johnson & Johnson shot, saying he was comfortable with the data.

Minnesotans also now have more places to get a rapid test for COVID-19. The National Guard opened new sites in Inver Grove Heights, Wadena, and Hibbing. All the locations are free and you get results within a few hours after the nasal swab.

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Kate Raddatz