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Essentia shares tips, times for COVID vaccinating children

Health officials maintain that robust coronavirus mitigation measures are one of the easiest ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the more contagious delta strain. Essentia Health officials also believe in administering the COVID-19 vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds.

Essentia Health St. Joseph's Medical Center Spring 2021.jpg
Essentia Health St. Joseph's Medical Center Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday, Nov. 2, officially authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.

Children are now eligible to be immunized against the coronavirus.

Essentia Health plans to help vaccinate this age group as quickly and conveniently as possible, according to a news release. Appointments are required and can be made with the child’s primary care provider or pediatrician.

“Our children have had nearly two school years disrupted by COVID-19, not to mention some children being seriously ill — and even dying — from the virus,”said Dr. Jonathan KenKnight, a pediatrician at Essentia, in the news release.

Patients can schedule through the health care provider’s MyChart patient portal or by calling 833-494-0836. Appointment availability will vary by location as the vaccine is allotted and distributed. People are advised to check MyChart frequently for openings.


The vaccine has been proven safe and effective for children, according to the news release. It is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than used for individuals ages 12 and older (30 micrograms). For more information about the vaccine from Essentia, visit .

“We at Essentia Health encourage vaccinating your children to keep them healthy and safe so that they can continue in school and other activities,” KenKnight stated. “With safe and effective vaccines now available for this age group, we are another step closer to ending the pandemic.”

Clinics throughout the Brainerd lakes area are ready to administer the Pfizer vaccine to all age groups, including 5- to 11-year-olds, and have added the following hours for COVID-19 vaccination:

  • Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Baxter Clinic (13060 Isle Drive): 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, excluding Thanksgiving; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 26

  • Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Brainerd Clinic (2024 S. Sixth St.): 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.

Anyone under the age of 18 must bring this consent form, found at , signed by a parent or guardian.

“We always encourage parents to be honest and patient with your child when it comes to getting vaccines, and talk about going to the doctor more often,” said Michelle Finneman, a child life specialist at Essentia, in the news release.

Essentia Health child life specialists offer the following tips to help families make vaccination a comfortable experience:

  • Be honest and use developmentally appropriate language when explaining shots to your child — saying “poke” vs. “shot” or “vaccine;” “getting medicine in your leg through a poke” vs. a shot or vaccine; and “it may feel like a small pinch” or “the medicine may feel warm” vs. “it will burn.”

  • Play! For our younger children, playing with medical/doctor toys helps them process experiences, but also helps desensitize and familiarize them with different tools they may see during their clinic appointments.

  • Talk about getting vaccines and come up with a plan at home to help prepare.

  • Validate your child’s feelings/emotions regarding getting vaccines or previous experiences. Some kids are nervous and/or scared, and that’s OK. It helps us to know we should be developing a plan and preparing ahead of time.

  • Give appropriate choices to allow them some control in the situation — for example, ask if they would like to watch or play a game on mom’s phone; if they want to blow bubbles; or maybe whether they would like to sit on dad’s lap or by themselves.

  • If your child is anxious, practice some breathing exercises at home or pick a favorite distraction tool and/or comfort item to bring that can be used to help support you.

  • Talk to your child’s medical provider and develop a plan. Is there an option to have a child life specialist present for distraction and support? Is “Buzzy” available for pain management? Buzzy resembles a bee and is used to numb an area of skin prior to injection via cold temps and vibration, confusing the nerves so that when the site is ready for a needle, the patient hardly feels it.

  • Distraction tools include an iPad, smartphone, music, favorite toys, light-up spinner and more. Comfort items, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, also are effective.

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