Walz intends to push COVID vaccines for young children and teens

Numerous questions remain on the necessity for children and teenagers to get vaccinated.

Background: Minnesota Capitol building (Matthew Deery/Flickr). Left: Gov. Tim Walz/Minnesota Governor's Office.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has announced his intention to incentivize young children and teenagers to take the COVID vaccine.

The news was first reported by Minnesota Public Radio, which said the governor made the announcement at a COVID testing site in Duluth Thursday morning.

According to the Associated Press, 12- to 17-year-olds who get vaccinated will be offered “services, products, and unique experiences” from Minnesota health officials.

Gov. Walz added that these incentives will extend to 5- to 11-year-olds once the FDA approves a vaccine for them, a move expected by the end of October.

The governor also didn’t pass up an opportunity in his remarks to encourage more adult Minnesotans to get vaccinated.

“These are the most tested and used vaccines that we have seen,” he said. “They were decades in the development of this. And to not do so not only puts you, your family [at risk], but it puts your community at risk.”

Although COVID vaccines were rolled out en masse just one year into the pandemic, Walz was referring to the fact that scientists have been developing coronavirus vaccines in the lab for many years.

“This vaccine strategy was explored in the original SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle-East respiratory syndrome) virus outbreaks,” Dr. Clay Dunagan of BJC HealthCare has said. “So, it’s not unprecedented for use in people.”

An article in Nature also says scientists were able to develop the vaccines quickly “because of years of previous research on related viruses and faster ways to manufacture vaccines, enormous funding that allowed firms to run multiple trials in parallel, and regulators moving more quickly than normal.”

Nevertheless, numerous questions remain on the necessity for children and teenagers to get vaccinated. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not yet recommend the COVID vaccine for any 5- to 11-year-old child. It also does not recommend the vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds who aren’t high risk, citing a current lack of evidence on its benefits.

According to KFF, 54% of all parents oppose a COVID vaccine mandate in schools, even if and when the FDA approves the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds. And of those parents with unvaccinated children, 83% oppose the idea of a mandatory vaccine.