A couple weeks after the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for teenagers as young as 12, parents and teens filtered into the wrestling room at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School to receive their vaccines.
“We’re in the stage where [the vaccines] have now been well-tested for children and adults,” said Amanda Logan, a certified nurse practitioner at the Mayo Clinic Health System's Janesville clinic. “They’ve run through the rigors, and these are now the repercussions of those good testings that they’ve had through the FDA.”
By forming partnerships with schools, the Mayo Clinic Health System has been able to meet residents in a place with which they’re comfortable and familiar to receive the COVID vaccine. The JWP school district expressed an interest in hosting a vaccine clinic for families wanting the vaccine and with the help of the Waseca County Public Health, was able to set up the May 26 afterschool clinic with the Mayo Clinic.
“My little tiny clinic would not have been able to hold all these people,” Logan remarked.
Waseca County Public Health Director Sarah Berry noted earlier this month that school clinics will likely be the easiest way to reach the school-age population with vaccines and they plan to host school clinics once the vaccine is expanded to a wider age range for children.
At the May 26 clinic, JWP Superintendent Kurt Stumpf said he is excited to get the community back into some routines, if the virus continues to subside.
“I think the hardest part about COVID is change, whether it be learning models or quarantines or families having to make adjustments," he said.
While he emphasizes that he believes the choice to get vaccinated is a family choice, Stumpf said he hopes families strongly consider it, and talk with their family doctor about what’s best for their family.
Shylah Hanks, a 17-year-old finishing up her junior year of high school, received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the JWP clinic. She’s been doing distance learning much of the school year, which has been a struggle, she said. But she is excited for post-COVID normalcy.
“Being able not to wear the mask, have more freedom, do more stuff, spending my senior year at school,” she listed off.
At first, she said she was worried about getting a fever as a vaccine side effect, since she knew somebody who felt sick after getting their second shot.
“I was worried to get it at first, but I’m not anymore. It’s just another shot to get,” she said.
Fifty-four percent of Waseca County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine as of Wednesday, compared with 64% statewide, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Sixteen percent of Waseca County residents ages 12-15 and a little more than a quarter of Waseca County residents ages 16-17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Logan said there still has been some hesitancy about the vaccine in the community. Some of it comes from the seeming novelty of the vaccine and the speed at which it was produced, she said. Some hesitancy, however, is due to misinformation found online about the vaccine. She encourages residents to use reliable resources for information about the vaccine.
“Mayo Clinic has a longstanding history of doing things the safe way,” she said. “They’re very conservative, they do their due diligence.”
Logan also explained that while there's misinformation about the vaccine, there's also a misunderstanding about children's vulnerability to COVID. While it is true that children are at a lower risk of serious illness than older adults, it is not true that kids have not become seriously ill or died from COVID in the United States. Nearly 300 children have died from it, according to recent data by the CDC. Three children in Minnesota have died due to COVID.
“Children that have gotten really severe illnesses, they’ve suffered from a multi-system reaction,” she explained, referring to Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a rare disease associated with COVID-19. “Getting them vaccinated helps protect them from that.”
There have been 85 cases of MIS-C in Minnesota and no deaths from it, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
For COVID to truly stop being a threat to humans, a significant majority of people, at least 70%, must develop immunity to have herd immunity, which is the point where the virus doesn't have enough people to spread to and mutate, and dies out over time.
“Children are 30 percent of people in the world. We need them vaccinated to reach herd immunity,” Logan said.