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St. Louis County’s approach to get younger teens vaccinated before summer

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PROCTOR, MN -- Getting vaccines to younger teens is the latest task of healthcare providers since the FDA authorized the emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 12 to 15.

Monday's authorization means COVID-19 vaccines will soon open up to more middle and high schoolers, which is a group experts say has been contributing to the spread of cases in the Northland.

Trial data from Pfizer shows the vaccine was 100 percent effective in more than 2,200 participants in that age group.

St. Louis County Public Health Planner Katie Albert said their current vaccine distribution approach is targeting mobile clinics, which could mean in the classroom.

Albert said it is a race against time to get both doses in.

"We are trying to move it as quickly as possible because we know that the end of the school year is approaching and in order to get that second dose in before the school year ends, we do need to act quickly for some of the schools," she said.

Before distribution can begin, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has to decide if and how it will officially recommend the vaccine for people ages 12 to 15.

They are set to meet Wednesday.

Proctor Public School's Superintendent John Engelking said that will impact who is eligible for this week's mobile clinic at Proctor High School.

"That will allow our middle school kids, if we do get final approval to do that, to be able to take advantage of the clinic that we are running on the 12th and 13th of this month," Engelking said. "That's Wednesday and Thursday."

Students need a signed parent consent form to get the vaccine.

"Certainly we want to provide opportunities for our kids to have the advantage of getting the vaccine," Engelking said. "It just opens doors up for kids in the summertime. Certainly, we aren't pressuring anybody and we aren't requiring vaccines, and nor will we in the future."

While it is unclear how many will show up, students who participate in the clinic can get their second dose before school lets out for the summer on June 9.

Albert said St. Louis County's healthcare partners have already hosted vaccine clinics in schools for students ages 16 and up and plan to open clinics to younger teens as early as next week.

"It will be interesting to see what the turnout is, and I think that's kind of going to gauge where we go from here and how we target our approach," Albert said.

Albert said registration will look different at each location, so parents can look to schools for more guidance.

This week's vaccine pop-up clinic at Proctor High School is Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The location is Door 5, 131 N 9th Ave. in Proctor.

It is open to the public.

Walk-ins are welcome or you can call 218-249-4200 to schedule an appointment.

They are offering the Pfizer vaccine to people 16 years and up.

Patients under 18 are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian or bring a signed vaccine form.

The FDA will meet later this month to discuss the use of COVID-19 vaccines in even younger children.

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Kendall Jarboe

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