Minnesota plans Nov. 4 start date for vaccinating 5-to-11 year olds

Minnesota health officials are revealing a wide-ranging plan to vaccinate young children starting Nov. 4 if federal regulators sign off by then.

Minnesota has signed up 530 health care providers and 600 pharmacies to offer kid-sized doses of Pfizer's vaccine to 5-to-11 year olds, health officials said Wednesday. The state-run site at the Mall of America will vaccinate up to 1,500 kids per day, and the state has partnered with 20 school districts to give doses in school.

Minnesota has about 505,000 in the soon-to-be-eligible age range. Health officials promised that parents would not be frustrated by shortages like those that plagued the early rollout to adults.

"It's a very different situation," Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters. "The federal government feels there is a very adequate supply of the pediatric vaccine. The planning and the logistics are about getting it where people want it as quickly as possible."

Final approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Pfizer's pediatric vaccine is expected next week. Minnesota has pre-ordered 170,000 initial doses, while another 85,000 will go directly to pharmacies, Malcolm said.

Parents should check with their pediatrician and pharmacy about making an appointment. They can also search for vaccine availability using the state's online tool.

The 20 school districts -- which health officials did not name Wednesday -- will be in "high-need" areas and will offer shots for four weeks. If a child's school offers an on-site clinic, it will be up to the school district and vaccine provider whether a parent must be present, Education Commissioner Heather Mueller said.

"We know that it’s important and we want to make sure that’s something that is available. We also know that for some families, that’s not something that’s always possible," she said.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 34 percent of parents nationwide plan to have their 5-to-11-year-old children vaccinated as soon as possible, while another 32 percent plan to wait and see.

Seven percent said they would have their young children vaccinated only if required, while 24 percent said they would never do it, the survey found.

Acknowledging the hesitancy, Minnesota health officials said they would keep signing up schools and community sites to run clinics well into the future.

"It’s perfectly legitimate and reasonable to have questions about what we know about the vaccine in this age group," Malcolm said. "I think the rigor of the review process has held up extremely well."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's review panel signed off on the Pfizer shots earlier this week.