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MANKATO — Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine numbers have been on the upswing over the last two weeks, with more than 2,500 doses now administered in the south-central region.

Uptake started out slow once vaccines for the 5-11 age range received federal approval, according to state vaccination data. The nine area counties combined for 415 doses administered as of Nov. 11, roughly the first week they were available.

In about two weeks since then, the number of 5- to 11-year-olds receiving doses rose to 2,608 as of Wednesday.

One county, Nicollet, even reached a 20% vaccination rate among the age group with 604 administered doses. It’s the first area county to achieve the milestone, putting it in line with the statewide average.

As with vaccines for older age groups, the rates for pediatric doses widely vary by county. Blue Earth County’s 910 vaccinations and 17% rate puts it within range of Nicollet County, but Martin County’s 104 vaccinations and 5% rate lags well behind.

Between first pediatric doses for the 5-11 age group and boosters for older populations, distribution is going smoothly in the region, said Eric Weller, coordinator of the South Central Healthcare Coalition.

“We have plenty of vaccines and plenty of providers,” he said. “You just may have to look a couple of different places.”

Anecdotally, he’s heard appointment availability in parts of the Twin Cities metro is tighter. Statewide vaccine numbers, with the metro accounting for a large portion of it, show demand for vaccines in November is at its highest point since May.

All nine south-central counties have seen similar upticks in vaccine rates this month. It comes during a time when cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are rising to levels not seen since fall 2020’s surge.

“We’re as busy as we were a year ago,” Weller said.

Some hospitals are adjusting their visitor policies in response to rising COVID-19 cases. Similar restrictions are relatively common during severe flu seasons.

River’s Edge Hospital in St. Peter announced this week it would limit patients to one support person during their stay beginning Nov. 29. Patients coming to urgent care or the emergency department with COVID-19 symptoms won’t be allowed visitors until the patient tests negative.

“As healthcare providers it is difficult for us to make the decision to limit the number of visitors our patients are allowed,” Paula Meskan, CEO at River’s Edge Hospital, stated in a release. “It is also our responsibility as healthcare providers to do all we can to ensure that our employees and patients have minimal risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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