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COVID-19

Relief and Gratitude as COVID-19 Vaccines Approved for Children

A mother and teenager who just received a COVID-19 vaccine at Gillette.

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare has been a strong advocate to ensure COVID vaccine access for for children with complex medical needs and their caregivers.

UPDATE: Gillette is now Offering COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments

Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare is now offering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for existing patients between ages 5 and 11 at the Gillette Burnsville or the Gillette Phalen Clinic.

Parents or caregivers for Gillette patients should call 651-290-8707 or schedule an appointment via the patient portal with MyGillette

Gillette continues to vaccinate patients 12 and older with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at a higher risk for COVID. 

Additional information about who is eligible for the vaccine can be found at the Minnesota Department of Health website. 

If you are eligible and over age 18, you can sign up to receive the vaccine through the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector

People who are unable to sign up online or who require translation assistance should call 833-431-2053 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to sign up over the phone.  

If you have specific questions about your eligibility for the vaccine, please contact your primary care provider.  

The Erickson family is relieved and grateful 10-year-old Bentley can now get the COVID vaccine. 

The Erickson family is relieved and grateful 10-year-old Bentley can now get the COVID vaccine. 

It’s the moment many parents have been anxiously waiting for—COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out for children ages 5-to-11.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced the state has launched a new website to help parents and guardians of 5-to-11-year-old children find a vaccine and to answer questions. Walz said the vaccine will arrive in waves this week and more than 500,000 Minnesota children are now eligible for the vaccine. This group of younger children will receive one-third of the dose authorized for those 12 and older. 

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel gave the initial approval for children in the 5 to 11 age group to use the Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccine news is especially welcomed by families who have a child with a complex medical condition because these children may be more at risk of getting COVID. Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare has been a strong advocate to ensure COVID vaccine access for children with complex medical needs and their caregivers.

“I have a huge sense of relief,” says Kris Erickson, mother to Gillette patient, Bentley. “Hopefully soon we’ll be able to step out of what I call our ‘hard shell bubble’ of isolation.”

Bentley was born prematurely and has multiple congenital health issues. He’s seen by a number of specialists at Gillette and his compromised immune system makes him especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The Erickson family has lived under strict lockdown conditions since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

“My husband, Nathan, and I were so scared that Bentley might get sick,” Kris says. “We were also terrified that one of us, as his caregiver, would become sick and possibly pass it to him or we would be so ill we could not continue to care for our son. It has been an anxious time.”

Bentley is now 10 and started a new school this fall. “He has not met his new school friends in person,” Kris says. “We’re excited for Bentley to get the vaccine and eventually be able to physically go to school.”

Gillette’s vice chief of staff, pediatrician and mother, Madeleine Gagnon, MD, is happy to hear the vaccine news. “As a pediatrician and mother of 7-year-old twin boys, I have been looking forward to the day when I could vaccinate my children and I’m thrilled we are finally here.”

Bentley and his sister have lived in strict lockdown conditions since early 2020 in an effort to avoid COVID-19. 

Bentley and his sister have lived in strict lockdown conditions since early 2020 in an effort to avoid COVID-19. 

Isolation and humbling holidays may be in the past

“Raising a child with complex medical conditions can be very isolating,” Kris says. “Then you add a pandemic and we’re forced to make our ‘hard shell bubble’ even harder. This vaccine will allow us to crack our shell a bit and to rejoin society.”

Once Bentley is vaccinated it will help to make the upcoming holiday season brighter for the Erickson family. “The holidays last year were humbling,” Kris recalls. “It was humbling to sit alone and to just be alone. We missed celebrating with friends and family but knew it was important to protect Bentley. It was very difficult.”

Bentley already is dreaming of what he wants to do first after he’s fully vaccinated and cleared to be around people.

“He really wants to go to Target!” Kris laughs. “He just loves Target and wants to buy a new X-Box game. It’s been so hard to repeatedly tell a 10-year-old that he can’t go to the place he enjoys. I’m looking forward to the day we can go to Target as a family and Bentley can rejoin society.”

The Erickson family is already working to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine for Bentley. “I’m on websites and looking forward to getting our appointment,” Kris says. “This is a huge relief.”

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