Duluth Public Schools held its first vaccine clinic for those ages 5-11 Thursday afternoon, marking a major milestone in the fight against COVID-19.

Superintendent John Magas said Duluth was one of three school districts in the state holding a vaccine clinic Thursday.

Trials show that the vaccine is more than 90% effective for children ages 5-11. The same side effects from COVID-19 vaccines, like fatigue, fever and a sore arm, are to be expected in the 5-11 age group, though studies show that that age group seems to have fewer side effects than any other so far, St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said.

Children 5-11 get a lower dose of 10 micrograms, while everyone else receives a dose of 30 micrograms.

While COVID-19 hasn't affected children as much as the adult population, as the virus has mutated, new strains continue to make more young patients ill.

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Laura MacArthur Elementary Principal Jim Erickson talks with St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook as she masks up after speaking at a news conference at the school Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Laura MacArthur Elementary Principal Jim Erickson talks with St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook as she masks up after speaking at a news conference at the school Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“Children are not immune to serious chronic consequences due to infection,” Westbrook said. “In September alone, six children in St. Louis County required hospitalization and others are dealing with long-term health consequences.”

Westbrook said that in the last week alone, 17% of COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County, about 113 cases, were children who were too young to be vaccinated.

“Each of those infections is a risk to the child, those people around them, and can create disruptions to school schedules as well as their parents’ or caregivers’ schedules,” she said. “It's a welcome relief that many of these children are now eligible for vaccination.”

Laura MacArthur Elementary School Principal Jim Erickson said he spends the first 10 minutes each day learning about staff members who are out.

“This has been a super-challenging time for our families,” Erickson said. “They’re worried about that next COVID-19 letter that comes out in terms of contact tracing, they’re worried about it affecting or impacting their classroom or their school and they want to make sure that their child is safe.”

Erika Drengler, Laura MacArthur Elementary physical education teacher and mother of two, speaks at the Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, news conference at the school.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Erika Drengler, Laura MacArthur Elementary physical education teacher and mother of two, speaks at the Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, news conference at the school. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Erika Drengler, a parent and physical education teacher at Laura MacArthur, said she is excited to have the opportunity to vaccinate her first grader and third grader.

“They’re excited for a return to sleepovers and feel more comfortable with playdates,” Drengler said. “We’re just excited for a more normal feel and to keep moving more toward the direction of what a normal school experience can be for them. I’m thrilled that we can do it at school, which I think is a comfortable and safe place for kids.”

Parent and Duluth School Board member Kelly Durick Eder said she is also excited to get her youngest son vaccinated and will be taking advantage of the clinic at his elementary school.

“All he cared about was not getting his shot on his birthday,” Durick Eder said. “His birthday has come and gone, so he’s ready for it now.”

Durick Eder is an immunologist so she said she sat her sons down and explained that the vaccine has a small piece of the virus and makes their cells strong and protects them from the virus.

“For parents unsure, I think they should talk to their pediatrician or somebody they trust that helps them with the health care of their children and have a conversation,” she said. “I think it’s good when parents get educated about the health care that their children receive.”

Families will receive signup information from their student's elementary or middle school, though walk-ups will also be welcome, according to the school district. A parent or guardian must provide written permission and be present during the vaccination.

The free clinics will only be for students 5-11 years old due to the lower dosage.

Clinic dates

  • Monday, Nov. 8, 3-7 p.m., Stowe Elementary and Homecroft Elementary.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 9, 3-7 p.m., Piedmont Elementary and Lowell Elementary.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 10, 3-7 p.m., Myers-Wilkins Elementary and Lester Park Elementary.

  • Thursday, Nov. 11, 3-7 p.m., Lakewood Elementary and from 3:30-7:30 p.m., Ordean East Middle School.

  • Friday, Nov. 12, 3:30-7:30 p.m., Lincoln Park Middle School.

Clinic dates for second dose

  • Monday, Nov. 29, 3-7 p.m., Stowe Elementary, Homecroft Elementary and Laura MacArthur Elementary.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 30, 3-7 p.m., Piedmont Elementary and Lowell Elementary.

  • Wednesday, Dec. 1, 3-7 p.m., Myers-Wilkins Elementary and Lester Park Elementary.

  • Thursday, Dec. 2, 3-7 p.m., Lakewood Elementary and from 3:30-7:30 p.m., Ordean East Middle School.

  • Friday, Dec. 3, 3-7 p.m., Congdon Park Elementary.

  • Friday, Dec. 3, 2:30-6:30 p.m., Lincoln Park Middle School.