EDITORIAL: Younger kids need to get vaccinated

·3 min read

May 14—Probably more than anyone, kids deserve normalcy. The approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 years old can draw them closer to what we once knew as normal.

Parents, if you have questions, doubts or concerns about the Pfizer vaccine that is now OK'd for your children, call your pediatricians or family doctors or nurse practitioners and pepper them with questions. They have the answers.

One important goal is to immunize as many schoolkids eligible for the Pfizer vaccine as soon as possible so that regular school operations can resume in the fall. Distance learning and hybrid models were reliable backups but for most kids are not a comparable substitute for in-person learning or in-person competition or in-person socializing.

And, as has been the case from the beginning of the pandemic, young people can spread the virus without even knowing they are infected. As variants continue to develop, stopping the spread of the virus remains key to stopping the pandemic. The number of high school-age youth confirmed with the disease has grown in the state, with more than 48,000 15- to 19-year-olds known to be infected during the pandemic.

Vaccine hesitancy is still a concerning issue. In south-central Minnesota as of mid-week, about 54.5% of residents 16 and older received first doses so far. Counties within the region range from as high as 62% vaccination rates in Brown County to as low as 45.1% in Sibley County. The state goal is a rate of 70% or better to reach herd immunity.

A group of governors, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, chatted Tuesday with President Joe Biden about what they've been doing in their states to encourage people to get vaccinated. Walz, known as a straight shooter, said he's delivered the message to get vaccinated so you can be alive to vote against him if you want to. He also said St. Paul Saints fans would be offered vaccine shots at the gate.

Other governors said their states are offering incentives, such as free fishing licenses, or are bringing mobile vaccination units into neighborhoods. Biden lauded Uber and Lyft for offering free rides to people seeking vaccine shots.

If earning a free doughnut or getting a free ride is what you need to get vaccinated, then so be it. But here's a major incentive: The shot protects you against getting seriously sick at the same time you are protecting those around you.

Some parents may have the misperception that their children can't get seriously ill from the coronavirus. A 6-year-old in Marshall with no underlying health conditions died this spring of COVID-19. Dr. Katie Smentek said Mankato Clinic has seen limited examples of young patients with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, adolescents with long-term symptoms and student-athletes who've had to limit exercise because of the illness' lingering effects. All of that doesn't add up to nothing to worry about.

In this area, getting the vaccine is easy and will be soon more available for kids, who must specifically get the Pfizer shots. Between clinics, pharmacies and public health agencies, most vaccine providers with Pfizer doses could start administering them to the newly eligible group next week. Some pharmacies already have Pfizer available this week. A mother told a Free Press reporter she's booked shots for her 12- and 14-year-olds on Saturday in anticipation of having a normal summer without worry.

Summer camps, ball games, the State Fair — think of all the fun that kids deserve to have after such a challenging year. A shot in the arm can be a morale boost for kids, at the same time protecting those around them. And if all goes according to plan, the next eligible group will be 2- to 11-year-olds, taking us even closer to a non-pandemic life.