When Will Minnesota High School Students Have a Chance at the COVID-19 Vaccine?



COVID-19 vaccine

Cayden Mayer, Staff Writer

COVID-19 is hopefully coming to an end as multiple companies are distributing vaccines. However, one major question continues to arise: When can I get the COVID vaccine? For minors, that information has been extremely scarce. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13.9 percent of the U.S. population have received one dose of the vaccine, and 6.5 percent have received both doses, yet almost none of those doses have gone to minors.

Percentage of the population vaccinated with one or two doses by state. Credit: cdc.gov

The first thing to understand about vaccinating children is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires vaccines to complete testing on children separately from testing on adults. The most widespread COVID vaccines are Moderna’s and Pfizer’s, but neither have completed the testing required on children under 16. This lack of testing is because testing on children can be much more difficult than testing on adults. The process of vaccine clinical trials includes keeping a journal of symptoms, multiple doctor’s appointments, and more, which can be very difficult for minors to do. Minors also need parental consent to participate in clinical trials, which is yet another barrier. All of this makes testing on minors a difficult task for companies already working on an unprecedented timeline.

The second important factor is the prioritization of who gets the vaccine. Health care workers, seniors, and other essential workers come first, but after that, the order gets slightly foggier. For example, workers in food processing plants will not be able to get their vaccines until April. If the people feeding the state and country cannot get vaccines yet, it makes sense that teenagers are not first on the list to be vaccinated.

For many students in Minnesota, the chances of going back to in-person learning this year have drastically increased. On February 17, Governor Tim Walz announced plans to provide some form of in-person learning for all Minnesota students grades K-12 by March 8. As a result, many metro school districts have been shifting towards in-person learning. Central has recently begun on-site student support, and St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) has released plans to offer in-person learning to all secondary students by April 14. Minneapolis public schools are following suit and plan to offer something similar starting April 12. While these dates are further out than Governor Walz’s dreams, it still gives hope to students craving to get back in person. It also raises many safety concerns, causing teenage interest in the vaccines to grow.

Who can get their COVID-19 vaccine and when in Minnesota. Credit: mn.gov

When it comes to minors getting vaccinated, children 16 years or older fall under a different category than those under 16. Testing for many vaccines includes people as young as 16, so the main barrier is not a lack of testing. However, testing is still needed before companies are allowed to market vaccines to those under the age of 16. Even so, there is still some hope. Moderna and Pfizer both plan to have testing completed for children as young as 12 by this summer. 

In Minnesota, there are no explicit plans for when teenagers will be able to be vaccinated. Still, those 16 or older will likely fall under the general population and thus be eligible starting in the summer, likely around July-August. Those 12-16 years old will most likely be considered part of the general population and therefore eligible in summer as soon as testing is complete. More details will be released on children under 12 when major companies announce information about testing. For now, high school students should hold tight, continue social distancing, and keep an eye out for any new information on vaccinations in their communities.