MANKATO – The number of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines has risen in the past two weeks, with more than 2,500 doses now being administered in the south-central region.
Uptake got off to a slow start as vaccines for ages 5-11 gained federal approval, according to state vaccination data. The nine regions combined for 415 doses administered as of Nov. 11, roughly the first week they were available.
In about two weeks since then, the number of 5- to 11-year-olds receiving doses rose to 2,608 as of Wednesday.
One province, Nicollet, even achieved a vaccination coverage of 20% among the age group with 604 administered doses. It is the first region to reach the milestone, bringing it in line with the national average.
As with vaccines for older age groups, pediatric dose rates vary widely by province. Blue Earth County’s 910 vaccinations and 17% rate puts it within Nicollet County’s reach, but Martin County’s 104 vaccinations and 5% rate lags far behind.
Between the first pediatric doses for the 5-11 age group and boosters for older populations, distribution is smooth in the region, said Eric Weller, coordinator of the South Central Healthcare Coalition.
“We have enough vaccines and many providers,” he said. “Maybe you should look in a few different places.”
Anecdotally, he’s heard that appointment availability is tighter in parts of the Twin Cities subway. The number of vaccines statewide, of which the subway accounts for a large part, shows that vaccine demand in November is at its highest point since May.
All nine counties in the south of the center have seen similar increases in vaccine rates this month. It comes at a time when cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are rising to levels not seen since the wave of fall 2020.
“We’re just as busy as we were a year ago,” Weller said.
Some hospitals are adjusting their visitor policies in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Similar restrictions are relatively common during severe flu seasons.
River’s Edge Hospital in St. Peter announced this week that it would limit patients to one support person during their stay from Nov. 29. Patients who come to the emergency room or emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms should not be visited until patient tests are negative.
“As healthcare providers, it is difficult for us to make the decision to limit the number of visitors our patients are allowed to visit,” said Paula Meskan, CEO of River’s Edge Hospital, in a press release. “It is also our responsibility as healthcare providers to do everything we can to ensure that our employees and patients are at minimal risk of exposure to COVID-19.”