OLMSTED COUNTY, Minn. - Vaccinating children ages 12 to 15 was the topic of discussion Thursday among Olmsted County Public Health and Mayo Clinic experts and the response within our communities.
83 new Coronavirus cases were reported last week in Olmsted County, the lowest number since September.
Public health officials report 70 percent of Olmsted County's 16 and older population is fully vaccinated and they have begun offering clinics targeting the 12 to 15 age group.
More than 50 percent of Olmsted County's population is now fully vaccinated.
Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse says the pandemic has caused teenagers to fall behind on routine immunizations, and teens do not need to space out other vaccinations from their COVID-19 shots.
She says this is a critical age group that needs to get vaccinated against the Coronavirus.
“They can spread it pretty much as effectively as adults. So getting them the protection for their own health but also to help decrease transmission and spread in the community is going to be an important part of bringing this pandemic to an end,” Dr. Rajapakse says.
She adds the last year has taken a toll on the mental health of teens.
“It's been nice to see the smiles on their faces when I ask what they're doing this summer because I think they have a lot more hope and opportunity to participate in activities that maybe they weren't able to last summer.”
Public health director Graham Briggs says the focus now is dealing with vaccine hesitancy.
“We do know that there is a piece of the population as well and we want to acknowledge that just aren't going to be interested in vaccination - having said that, we just want to make sure that we're here and it's available for people that change their mind,” Briggs explains.
Side effects for teens are similar to the adult population, mild, short-lived symptoms in the first few days after the vaccine.
Guidance from the CDC says anyone under 18 does not have to quarantine after 2 weeks since the last vaccination.
Briggs adds, “That's part of us getting back to normal is not having to go through all of these hoops when people get exposed or when there is risk in the community.”
Olmsted County public health has clinics scheduled over the next 4 weeks vaccinating over 400 12 to 15-year-olds.
You can continue to check the Olmsted County Public Health website and local pharmacies.
Vaccine trials are underway for children as young as six months old. Mayo Clinic says we can expect a possible approval of a vaccine for ages 2-11 by the end of this year.