MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Now that the final hurdle has been cleared to begin vaccinating children ages 5-11 against COVID-19, state and school officials are rolling out their plans. Gov. Tim Walz says he wants to make it as easy as possible to vaccinate younger kids against the virus.

“We’re combining safety speed and equity. And that’s taking vaccines to where kids are,” Walz said Thursday, “whether it be their pharmacy, the Mall of America, whether it be with their pediatrician, or the one that makes a lot of sense to many of us at their child’s school.”

The Centers for Disease Control earlier this week issued formal recommendations for children as young as 5 to start receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that Minnesota would begin vaccinating children in that age group this week.

The state announced Wednesday a new website, Vax For Kids, to assist families in scheduling a vaccination and answer questions about the shot.

St. Paul Public Schools will offer two vaccine clinics at elementary schools beginning later this month.

“It’s really important that we get information out there, that we encourage and support and really look to remove some of the barriers that lead to the inequities we’ve seen in COVID-19,” said Dr. Joe Gothard, superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools. “Today is a great day for us to celebrate.”

Como Park Elementary will offer first doses on Nov. 15, 22 and 29 from 3-6 p.m., and second doses on Dec. 6, 13 and 20 at the same time. Battle Creek Elementary will offer first doses on Nov. 16, 23 and 30 from 3-6 p.m., and second doses on Dec. 7, 14 and 21 during that timeframe. Appointments are required and can be made online by clicking here.

At the clinics, vaccines will be offered for free to anyone 5 and up. The district said individuals getting vaccinated at these sites are eligible for gift cards offered by Ramsey County.

Health officials say the news of an approved Pfizer vaccine for elementary aged kids couldn’t come soon enough.

“It will also reduce disruptions to in-person learning and the need to quarantine large number of students,” St. Paul Public Schools director of health and wellness Mary Langworthy said. “Appointments are required for all first dose clinics and can be made online through Ramsey County Public Health.”

The goal of these clinics is access and equity.

“In an equity mindset from an equity community, we need to make sure we’re removing barriers — things like language, transportation, access, insurance, immigration status,” Gothard said.

The district said it has about 17,000 students in the newly eligible age range. There are no doses available for this week.

Ninety-four percent of Minnesotans are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the governor’s office. The state has administered more than 7 million doses, including about 463,000 booster shots.

Liz Collin