Northland pediatricians urge families to get children vaccinated for COVID-19

Kenlyn Thimm, 14, of Superior, will be the last in her family to get vaccinated, and she has avoided hugging her vaccinated grandparents out of an abundance of caution.

Molly McNamee, 14, from Duluth, is also the last in her family to be vaccinated and can’t wait to hug her friends again.

“My best friends haven’t hugged each other for over a year, so we’re all excited to finally get our photos to hug each other again and feel safe,” said Molly.

Kenlyn Thimm, 14, dribbles a tennis ball with her hockey stick outside her family’s Superior home on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Jed Carlson /

Kenlyn attends school in person only twice a week, Thursdays and Fridays. Not only is she excited to finally get vaccinated so she can feel safe, she also recommends other students do the same so things look more normal next school year.

“A lot of people my age aren’t at much risk of getting negative effects from COVID-19, but a lot of other people could be at risk because you have COVID-19 and spread it,” Kenlyn said.

And she is right. Young people are less likely to have severe reactions to COVID-19, but they can have lasting effects, said St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Gretchen Karstens.

Dr. Gretchen Karstens

The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to work very well in adolescents, and it is the best way to protect children, Karstens said.

“We can protect our children and they deserve it,” she said. “COVID has put a huge burden on our children by keeping them more isolated and less able to participate in what we currently consider normal childhood and adolescence, and it has resulted in really big gaps in performance among academics and increased rates. of depression and anxiety. . “

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12-15 years old. This approval made millions more people in Minnesota and Wisconsin eligible for vaccination.

Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for people under the age of 18, and it is expected to be approved for school in the fall for children ages 2 to 11 and by the end of 2021 for children 2 and under.

“Vaccines are the way we can get them back in real classrooms instead of virtual classrooms and get them back on the field and back on the ice,” Karstens said.

Patsy Stinchfield

Patsy Stinchfield, Senior Director of Infection Prevention at Children’s Minnesota, said that with the addition of children ages 12-15, 87% of the U.S. population is now eligible for a vaccine.

“This just couldn’t be at a better time because we’re really starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel to get us out of this pandemic, so it’s great news,” she said.

Stinchfield said it is a myth that children and teens cannot get seriously ill from COVID-19. A childhood and teen illness related to COVID-19 is a multi-system inflammatory syndrome. MIS-C, in children, is a condition in which various parts of the body can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

“While it’s not very common, it can happen, and 1-2% can die from it,” said Stinchfield, adding that teens get worse and can be in intensive care and have heart attacks, brain haemorrhages and blood infections. a result of MIS-C.

“At Children’s Minnesota, just (two weeks ago) we had four teens in our intensive care unit who were really fighting for their lives against this disease, and if we have a safe and effective vaccine, as we do now, to put that tragedy in your family. , then why not get your kids vaccinated and keep them safe? ”said Stinchfield.

Dr. Sharnell Valentine

Dr. Sharnell Valentine, a pediatrician at Essentia Health, said there have been hundreds of deaths from youth COVID-19, more than 13,000 pediatric hospitalizations and more than 3,600 cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in the US since the start of the pandemic.

Valentine said that adolescents who have had COVID-19 can have long-lasting heart effects and may need to see a cardiologist for the rest of their lives.

“Athletes who have had COVID-19 should be monitored and approved with an (electrocardiogram) before resuming exercise,” said Valentine.

Another reason people are reluctant to get the vaccine is because of the speed at which it was developed. Stinchfield said, yes, it is remarkable how quickly the vaccines have been developed, but can assure people that it has not happened quickly because of the cornering.

“Where we cut back is in some of the red tape,” she said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, which is not new and has been carefully researched, evaluated and established as safe, Karstens said.

“When former President Donald Trump called for these vaccination efforts to protect our nation, there were multiple groups of scientists who came together to share resources and data, and that part is how we could get it so quickly,” she said.

Karstens uses an analogy to spring cleaning to explain it to people who are hesitant.

“If I only clean my house in the spring, I can get it done, it could take me a month to do a really good job,” she said. “But if I call a team of experienced, hard-working house cleaners who come and we all work together, I’ll have it done in a matter of hours.”

Both Molly and Kenlyn received their first vaccine this week and will be fully vaccinated within five weeks.

“I look forward to traveling and traveling again,” Kenlyn said.

Kenlyn Thimm, 14, works on school assignments on her laptop outside her family’s Superior home on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Jed Carlson /

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