Health officials urge parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19
Children age 6 months through 5 years now eligible for updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine dose
December 13, 2022
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is urging parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 and to make sure they and the entire family are up to date as the holidays approach.
The push comes just after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded recommendations for children age 6 months through 5 years to receive an updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine dose to help increase their protection against currently circulating variants. Vaccine doses for children 6 months through 5 years are arriving in the state now.
Children younger than 5 years first became eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in June; however, vaccination rates for these youngest Minnesotans remain very low across the state. Less than 17% of children age 6 months through 4 years have received at least one dose and less than 5% of children in this age group are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, less than 10% of children age 5-17 years are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to severe disease. Lower up to date vaccination rates for all age groups are concerning for health officials as immunity wanes and the virus continues to mutate.
“Thankfully, children getting very sick from COVID-19 is not very common, but children do get COVID-19 and we can’t predict which children will get very sick, so prevention is the best option,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “The best way to protect your child and your family is to get them vaccinated against COVID-19, and that includes the updated bivalent vaccine when they are due.”
“These vaccines are safe and one of the best tools we have to protect our children’s health,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. “Vaccination helps keep children safe and healthy, and helps protect other vulnerable family members, like grandma and grandpa, by reducing spread.”
Because protection from the vaccines can decrease over time, and because the strains of COVID-19 that are circulating have changed since the original vaccine was developed, the CDC now recommends that children age 6 months and older get an updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine.
Children 6 months through 5 years of age who received the original (monovalent) Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are now recommended to receive a single booster of the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after their last COVID-19 shot.
Children 6 months through 4 years of age who have not yet received the third dose of their primary series will now receive the updated bivalent Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as the third dose in their primary series following two doses of the original vaccine. Children in this age group who have completed their three-dose primary series are not recommended to get a booster vaccine at this time. However, that may change in the future.
COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated (bivalent) vaccines, can be given at the same visit as other vaccines, such as influenza vaccine or other routinely recommended childhood vaccines.
“Many children have fallen behind on recommended vaccines during the pandemic,” said Dr. Lynfield. “Talk to your health care provider about scheduling a well-child visit. These visits are important for tracking your child’s growth and developmental milestones, discussing any concerns about your child’s health, and getting recommended vaccinations, including COVID-19 and influenza vaccines, to prevent illnesses.”
“Our hospitals have been incredibly busy this fall and winter. We want to do everything we can to help keep children healthy and vaccines are one of the best ways to do that,” said Commissioner Malcolm. “The diseases that vaccines prevent are real, even though we don’t see some of them often. Letting our guard down with decreasing immunization rates opens the door for more disease outbreaks and disruptions to families’ lives. Talk to your child’s doctor to make sure they are up to date on all recommended childhood immunizations, including COVID-19 and influenza vaccines.”
Cost should not be a barrier to getting children vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are free for all Minnesotans at both state and private sites, regardless of insurance status. The Minnesota Vaccines for Children Program (MnVFC) offers all recommended immunizations for free or low cost for children 18 years of age and younger who do not have health insurance or whose insurance does not cover the cost of vaccines.
More information on COVID-19 vaccines for children can be found on COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens. Information on all recommended childhood immunizations can be found on MDH’s Immunization website.
How Minnesotans can get a free COVID-19 shot
• Contact your health care provider or a local pharmacy.
• Use the state’s Find Vaccine Locations to find vaccine providers near you—providers will update their information as appointments are available.
• Check for vaccine appointments at Vaccines.gov, where you can search for appointments by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer).
• Watch for vaccination clinics being offered at other community locations around Minnesota.
How Minnesotans can get a COVID-19 test
• Walk in or schedule an appointment for a test at one of the state’s free COVID-19 Community Testing Sites. Test-to-treat options are available at some locations.
• Order rapid tests through the state’s free COVID-19 at-home rapid testing program.
• Check with your insurance company about ways to get free rapid tests from pharmacies.
• Find a testing option near you through the state’s Find Testing Locations map.