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Education Commissioner Mueller visits Lester Park Elementary vaccine clinic

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic for children age 5-11 offered doses to 300 children Wednesday afternoon.

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Aylin Solberg, 11, of Duluth, left, receives her first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Tammy Gillis, of Spencer, Iowa, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic for child vaccinations in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Despite feeling nervous beforehand, 11-year-old Aylin Solberg said her COVID-19 vaccine only ranked a three out of 10 on her pain scale. Her brother, 9-year-old Gunnar Solberg, said his vaccine was only a one.

The siblings were at the front of the line with their mother Brianna Solberg on Wednesday afternoon at Lester Park Elementary School, where a COVID-19 vaccine clinic was held for children age 5-11.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Heather Mueller, who walked through the clinic before it opened, said she has been glad that organizers have been able to be proactive with planning for this round of clinics, which administer doses of Pfizer vaccine that are one-third the amount of an adult dose. Holding the clinics at schools gives access to more people in communities, and she hopes to continue to use the state's resources to vaccinate students across Minnesota.

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Brianna Solberg, left, of Duluth checks in with her son, Gunnar Solberg, 9, of Duluth, after he received his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic for child vaccinations in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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“We’re balancing speed with equity, and really being thoughtful about how it is you do that,” Mueller said. “The building is a central location. It is a space that students know, it is a space that families know. There is comfort with having it be in an environment that they’re used to.”

Each vaccine clinic in Duluth has offered 300 children a vaccine, and some clinics have filled up and redirected people to other clinics, Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas said.

“I think one of the things that’s the most surprising is how many of the kids get it," Magas said. "They’re coming in excited, and I never thought I’d see hundreds of kids excited to get a shot. But they get that they’re going to be safer and those people around them will be safer.”

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Registered nurse Tammy Gillis, left, of Spencer, Iowa, gives Gunnar Solberg, 9, of Duluth, his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Annie Yolitz, vice president of clinical services for the site's health care partner SpeciaLysts, said 950 vaccines had already been administered to children ages 5-11 in Duluth before Wednesday's clinics.

For many families, including the Solbergs, the clinics will get their children vaccinated just in time for the holidays, when many extended families will gather. Brianna Solberg said her youngest child has already been vaccinated, and Aylin said she was relieved to have her first shot done.

Amy Westbrook, division director of St. Louis County Public Health, said while Duluth has set the bar with vaccination rates, she remains concerned about central St. Louis County, which has seen a lot of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations and high rates of vaccine hesitancy.

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Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas, left, speaks with Minnesota's Education Commissioner, Heather Mueller, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Mueller said an important message they continue to push is that parent or guardian consent and accompaniment is required at all vaccine clinics located at schools.

“It’s not political. This isn’t a game. These are people’s lives," Mueller said. "This is about keeping our kids safe and keeping our kids in school and providing the very best to every single child across the state.”

More Duluth vaccine clinics for first doses for children age 5-11 will be held 3-7 p.m. Thursday at Lakewood Elementary, 3:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Ordean East Middle School, and 3:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at Lincoln Park Middle School.

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Brianna Solberg of Duluth fills out vaccination cards for her children Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic for child vaccinations in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

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Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas, from left, and Minnesota's Education Commissioner, Heather Mueller, listen to Lori Krumm with the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
CLINT AUSTIN

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Minnesota's Education Commissioner, Heather Mueller, right, gestures while talking with Aubrie Hoover with the St. Louis County Department of Health on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Lester Park Elementary School COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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Bygones is researched and written by David Ouse, retired reference librarian from the Duluth Public Library. He can be contacted at djouse49@gmail.com.