Minnesota opens appointments for younger children to get COVID-19 vaccine

The state of Minnesota is making appointments available for children ages six months to 5 years old to get COVID-19 vaccines, after the CDC gave final approval for that age group last week.

Parents can book appointments online starting immediately. The vaccine clinic at the Mall of America is open Wednesday through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Appointments are required for the newly opened age group. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says shots will be made available through other sources than the state-run site, but most shots will be administered by large health systems, local clinics, and pharmacies, to ensure proper care for children.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine: CDC approves 1st shots for US kids under 5

Vaccine shipments are expected to arrive in Minnesota in waves starting next week.

More than 12 billion COVID-19 shots have been administered worldwide during the pandemic. In the United States, healthcare advocacy group the Commonwealth Fund estimates that the U.S. vaccine program saved as many as 2.2 million lives as of March 2022 along with preventing 17 million hospitalizations and saving nearly $900 billion in health care costs.

Despite the effectiveness of the vaccine, only 42 percent of children ages 5 to 11 have received at least one vaccine dose in Minnesota, according to MDH data. Only 13 percent of Minnesota children in that age group are up-to-date on their shots.

While there have been only four deaths of children age 14 and younger, the United States saw a spike in hospitalizations of children during the omicron wave.

"As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death," FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement last week.