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Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan: Roll Out of Vaccines for 5-11 Year Olds and Her Breakthrough Case of COVID-19

We welcomed back Minnesota's Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan to tell us how the vaccination of 5-11 year olds will work in our state. She also gave us an update on her own health: she and her daughter and husband recently contracted COVID.

Transcript edited for clarity.
Heidi Holtan: Yesterday, the Star Tribune reported that healthcare providers and others will begin vaccinating 5 to 11 year old children in Minnesota now that the Pfizer coronavirus shot has received federal approval. Here to help us understand it all is Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.

Let’s talk personal first. You were public about your household having COVID-19. How are you guys doing?

Lt. Governor: Well, I will tell you that COVID is no joke. It is certainly affecting us. My daughter got it first and it is hard to isolate from an eight year old when you're a caregiver. And we all got it. To her symptoms: they were pretty mild, but she has asthma. So we wanted to keep a good eye on her. She's back at school. I am still kind of fatigued and, and my husband Tom is, is in the thick of it right now.

So what I just want folks to know is that this pandemic is not over. And I've heard a lot of stories like mine, a child who can't yet be vaccinated, who tests positive and brings it home. I know several folks who are going through that right now.

But I think this moment that we find ourselves in now, there's a, there's a lot to be hopeful for, especially with our kiddos. Being able to be vaccinated now are 5 to 11 year olds. That extra layer of protection for our kids then also extends to their loved ones. My daughter is going to be getting vaccinated once she is feeling a little better and I will also be getting my booster when I'm eligible

Scott Hall: Tell us what it's like - you and your husband have both been vaccinated. So was it like a bout of the flu? How long did it last or does it last?

Lt. Governor: So our experience so far has just been really severe congestion and muscle ache - just generally sort of feeling worn down and fatigued. For me what has been the challenge - really honestly so far - is that I will start to feel better and then I will do more. And then I will backslide a bit because I've worn myself out. And this is something that I've heard from a lot of folks who have had COVID - the rush to overdo it. And then you backslide. What I’m really trying to do is rest, and take care of myself as much as I can. I was in bed for a few days and the same for my husband. And so that's why I am so grateful for the vaccination. I cannot imagine what this would feel like if I wasn't.

I certainly was encouraging people to get vaccinated before, but now it is so incredibly important. This is a real drag. And you know, I just can't imagine what I would feel like if I hadn't been vaccinated,

Heidi : You and I spent about 14 months talking every week during the pandemic. And a lot of the things we talked about was that people were sick of COVID. They are tired of the pandemic. But we’re still in a pandemic. How do you see this moment in terms of cases in Minnesota right now?

Lt. Governor: Well, I think you know, we certainly are in a moment where folks just want to be done with it. But we're in a moment in Minnesota when we're seeing a spread. And so the thing that is most exciting to me in this moment is that 94% of Minnesotans are now eligible for the vaccine. And that means that we can lick this thing.

We can turn the curve on this and for our kiddos I think it is incredibly important. And for a lot of kids, again, it is mild, but my primary job as a parent is to keep her safe. I always ask Siobahn – you know when she doesn’t want to wear her bike helmet or she says I don't want to wear my knee pads. I always say: what is my most important job? And she always, reluctantly says: to keep me safe.

And that is my most important job as a parent. And the fact that we now have the vaccine available for 5 to 11 year olds - that for me, feels like being a good mom means I’m making sure that my kid has that extra layer of protection. But also that she can't bring it home again to us or to grandma or to other loved ones who might be immunocompromised.

So it is it's been hard experiencing COVID firsthand. I wish I hadn't. But now I am in mama bear mode where I just feel even more passionate that folks need to get this done.

Heidi: I want to hear more about how the state is rolling this out, but first… I have heard from some parents and they are wondering about if their kids had had COVID and whether they should get that shot. Should they wait a certain while? Have you thought about that in terms of your daughter since she just had COVID?

Lt. Governor: So the recommendation from our doctor is that she is eligible after her 10 day quarantine. And when she no longer has symptoms. To be honest she would have gotten it already - but I am at home. So you should certainly talk to your own physician about their recommendation. But we are going to get her vaccinated as soon as possible. And the joke in our house has been that then she'll have unicorn blood because she will have gone through COVID and then will have the vaccine.

But the best protection comes from the vaccine. We’ve seen these re-infection rates that MN Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm talked about earlier this week. And you know, once you get it, it doesn't mean that you can't get COVID again. Again, that vaccine is just the best protection for our kids and for communities overall.

Heidi: So help us understand what this rollout is going to be like for vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds in the state.

Lt. Governor: So earlier this week the Pfizer vaccine was approved for kids 5 to 11 years of age. It's a two dose series, the same as adults. So we have mobilized a network of more than a 1100 providers to administer COVID-19 vaccines to kiddos who are 5 to 11.

So that includes state vaccine sites, like the Mall of America, pediatric and family medicine clinics, primary care providers, federally qualified health centers, local public health agencies, tribal health agencies, and in-house service locations and pharmacies across the state. So we wanted to make sure that there were multiple entry points for children and their families to get vaccinated.

We are also partnering with school districts to offer clinics at school for really easy access for kids and parents. To find more information or to find a place and schedule an appointment, you can visit

We know that providers are ramping up capacity. So you'll see more appointments available over the coming days. And just anecdotally - we have just heard from a lot of folks who were able to get an appointment through their local pharmacy or through their health clinic. So it is not hunger games. There is a vaccine available for kiddos and for those who want it.

Heidi : I've heard from a few people in Northern Minnesota that not all the information is there yet. So if you aren't seeing your pharmacy, your clinic there, keep checking, it'll eventually be there. So you can get your kids vaccinated,

Scott: We’ve heard from some parents who were not hesitant at all about getting vaccines for themselves, but are a little worried about it for their kids. What would you say about those concerns?

Lt. Governor: I mean, as a mom, I totally understand wanting to do what is best for our kiddos. And I know that you want what is best for your child as a parent, as we all do. And I told Minnesotans this before, when I got vaccinated that it certainly goes for vaccinating my kids too. I'm not going to ask Minnesotans to do anything that I am not willing to do myself.

We know that kids generally handle COVID better than grownups, but some kids have some serious complications and long-term symptoms after contracting COVID and it's just not worth it. We now have a tool for you to be able to keep your kids safe. And you know, what's really exciting is that the Pfizer vaccine has been carefully studied in children ages 5 to 11 just like all other vaccines for people 12 and older.

So this process is called a clinical trial and all authorized vaccines have gone through it only vaccines that are safe and effective are authorized for use. And the Pfizer vaccines have shown to be 97% effective against symptomatic COVID for children 5 to 11.

And also: this was the most exciting thing that I read yesterday - according to the FDA there were no reports of any severe side effects or deaths and common, mild side effects were less common in the 5 to 11 year olds in the trial compared to 16 to 25 year olds.

So our kiddos handle these vaccines well and it gives them that extra layer of protection. If you have more questions you should talk to your pediatrician or family physician, but I think this is a really exciting opportunity for our kids. And I feel absolutely confident getting my child the vaccine.

Heidi: In terms of boosters, how are things going in the state of Minnesota?

Lt. Governor: So we are number 3! We are number 3 in the country for folks who are getting booster shots. And I think that's pretty exciting. We administered boosters booster doses to 10.8% of fully vaccinated adults behind only Alaska and Vermont. And because I have some underlying conditions, I'm planning to get a booster shot once I'm eligible post the monoclonal antibody treatment. And so I have to wait 90 days, but January 27th is the day that I had ready to go for my booster. And we'll absolutely get it. It's an extra layer of protection for people who are vulnerable to serious symptoms of COVID-19 and they are available all over the state. And I just really encourage folks to get one.

Heidi : You can find more information on vaccinations and how to schedule an appointment for your 5 to 11 year old to get the vaccine at Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. Thanks so much for your time today. Thank

Lt. Governor: Thank You. This was great.

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.