(KNSI) – The state of Minnesota is focusing on getting families with children vaccinated against COVID-19 in the near future as people age 12 and older got the green light to receive the Pfizer shot last week.
“We took a big step toward normal last week, but a safe and fun summer is possible only if everyone who can be protected is protected,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “You get protected by getting your shot — and now more young people have the power to do their part. And when you get your shot, bring a friend, bring a sibling, bring anyone you can so we can be protected and enjoy the concerts, the festivals, and all the summertime events we’ve been missing.”
A particular push for the “Roll Up Your Sleeves, Minnesota Families” campaign is happening this week at the Mall of America vaccination site: Walz’s office says families will prioritized for vaccines at that site through Saturday.
In addition to the broadened vaccine eligibility, Minnesota dropped its face mask mandate last week. Before that, the state’s community vaccination clinics opened up to allow walk-in vaccine appointments.
“It’s important that eligible Minnesotans 12 and older who have not yet been vaccinated take advantage and get vaccinated,” state infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said. “It’s never been easier to get the vaccine, and there are many options available to do this.”
Those options are reflected in the state’s strategy to reach more unvaccinated Minnesotans; Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says smaller, community-based outreach and opportunities for vaccination are the way forward. She pointed to the state’s mobile vaccination buses and partnerships with local public health departments.
“Making the vaccine more available at routine points of health care as well as in the pharmacy system and moving to more walk-up appointments without the need for prior scheduling and also trying to work with some of our great summer events to host the vaccine,” Malcolm said. “Just trying to get the vaccine to be extremely convenient for people as well as continuing to educate and address questions or concerns that people may have.”
Ehresmann underscored the fact that many people, like kids 11 and younger, cannot get vaccinated yet.
“Regardless of how anyone may personally feel about the risk, we owe it to those Minnesota children under 12 and others who have not yet had the chance to be vaccinated to do the right things to prevent COVID transmission, and the best tool we have for that is getting vaccinated when you can.”
Ehresmann pointed to the CDC’s guidance that unvaccinated people should continue to wear face masks in most settings and that health care facilities will still require masks to protect at-risk patients.
As far as risk of infection goes for fully vaccinated individuals, it seems to be small. Breakthrough cases occur when someone who is fully vaccinated ends up contracting COVID-19. Ehresmann said the state has confirmed 2,249 breakthrough cases so far.
“That is compared to — at the time that these were identified — [a] total of 2,076,507 complete vaccinations, so it remains at about 0.001 percent,” Ehresmann said.
That’s a 1 in 100,000 risk of a fully vaccinated person catching COVID-19. Ehresmann added that the state has not seen any indication that more people with any certain brand of COVID vaccine are more susceptible than others for breakthrough cases, but those who do have those cases are, on average, older and more likely to be women.
“The average age of our breakthrough cases is 70 years old, which would fit with the idea that as we age, our immune systems are not quite as responsive,” she said. “In terms of the proportion of breakthrough cases among women, [it is] at 66 percent, and the proportion of women who had received a full vaccine series was 56 percent.”
Per the latest data from May 17, 2,749,383 Minnesotans are at least partially vaccinated against COVID. That’s 61.9 percent of people 16 and older. More than 88 percent of seniors 65 and older have received at least one dose.
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