ROCHESTER, Minn. — In anticipation of approvals expected by the middle of next week, Minnesota officials announced on Wednesday, Oct. 27, the preparation of over 1,100 providers to quickly administer COVID-19 vaccines to families of participating children age 5-11.

"We're anticipating vaccinations could start as early as late next week," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said during a press call on Wednesday.

“Every 5-11-year-old in Minnesota deserves the protection the COVID-19 vaccine has to offer,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “The state is prepared for this critical moment in the battle against COVID-19 ... We’ll be ready to do our part when the federal government gives us the green light, and I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated when the shots are ready.”

Malcolm said there are just under 505,000 Minnesota children in the age group affected by the pending approval. Recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests 30-40% of parents of children between 5 and 11 would be motivated to vaccinate their child against COVID-19 quickly, with another group willing after a short wait, and a separate group unwilling entirely.

Should those predictions bear out, the state could see 150,000 to 200,000 children vaccinated in the coming weeks, potentially tens of thousands daily, a significant jump from the 4,000 vaccinations delivered statewide on Tuesday.

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State officials made the statement Wednesday to signal they are confident that needed supplies and logistics are in place to absorb such a sudden spike in demand, and to do so equitably, citing the impending arrival of 170,000 doses for providers and another 85,000 for pharmacies.

"It's a very different situation (in terms of availability) than where it was in December and January." Malcolm said. "There is a very adequate supply of pediatric vaccine."

The new vaccinations would potentially raise the percentage of state residents vaccinated by 5%. With nearly three-fourths of the state now vaccinated, such an influx would push statewide coverage toward 80%, a threshold Walz recently characterized as ideal for reducing community spread.

State access points for child vaccination include over 530 pediatric and family medicine clinics, primary care providers, federally qualified health centers, local public health agencies, tribal health agencies, and Indian Health Service locations. Those sites will be joined by the participation of over 600 pharmacies.

State officials say they plan to partner with school districts and charter schools to host vaccination clinics, while a Community Vaccination Program located at the Mall of America has tripled its capacity, enabling 1,500 shots a day to children 5-11.

“These vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly effective, and they are our best tools for protecting Minnesotans from COVID-19,” Malcolm said in a statement.

"Plan ahead, talk to your family physician, and once your child is eligible, find a vaccine opportunity near you to get your child protected.”

Since July 1, there have been more than 45,200 pediatric cases, according to health officials, with more than 300 child hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in Minnesota. Roughly 25% of COVID-19 pediatric deaths nationally have occurred in healthy children, moreover.

Thousands of children have been diagnosed with COVID-19-linked multisystem inflammatory syndrome in the U.S., with almost 100 cases in Minnesota, and all but 17 of the state's pediatric beds were full as of Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, citing falling participation with tracing and widespread public awareness of isolation and quarantine advice, health officials announced changes to their contact tracing policy.

The department is moving away from contact tracing every diagnosis and toward "targeting situations where in-depth contact tracing will have more impact," Malcolm said.

While everyone diagnosed with COVID-19 will be sent an online survey, contact tracing will shift towards surveillance of targeted groups that can inform policy, groups that includes pediatric cases, breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and new variants.

The health department's webpage has been updated to remove outdated graphics as well, including those illustrating the mix of residence types infected, and source of likely exposure.

School cases have also been updated to illustrate age ranges, instead of listings of schools with more than five cases, while reporting related to high risk exposures within health care settings has been adjusted to reflect breakthrough cases in those contexts.

Following are the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 case rates, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations as of Wednesday. Because all data is preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 1,810
  • SEVEN-DAY, ROLLING AVERAGE OF NEW CASES PER 100,000 PEOPLE: 40 (as of 10/19)

  • TOTAL CASES: 781,548
  • TOTAL RECOVERED: 756,146
  • 7.1% (as of 10/19)

In a sign of a weakening wave, as of one week ago, test positivity had dropped a full percentage point over the previous 10 days, and the case rate had fallen from 53 to 40 or roughly 20%.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 911

  • TOTAL HOSPITALIZATIONS: 40,868

  • DEATHS, NEWLY REPORTED: 31

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 8,612

Hospitalizations have continued a gradual decline but capacity remains at a high level, according to health officials.

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 3,460,119 and 74.6% of population

  • COMPLETED SERIES (2 doses): 3,292,754 and 71.2% of population

Vaccinations have been climbing for the last three months.

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