A child between the ages of 5-9 with no underlying health conditions died as a result of COVID-19 complications Sunday, April 25 in Lyon County, Minnesota. They were the third child under the age of 18 to die from the disease in the state.
Children under the age of 18 have had a total of 102,632 cases in Minnesota. Eleven other deaths and 1,088 cases were newly reported as of Tuesday, April 27. The state has had a total of 570,518 cases and 7,091 deaths.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials released statements following the death of the child Monday, April 26.
“It is simply heartbreaking to hear that COVID-19 has taken the life of someone so young. My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child. There is no grief more profound than the loss of family,” Walz said in a statement.
While COVID-19 deaths in youth are unusual, they are possible even in otherwise healthy children, the Minnesota Department of Health stated.
Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller said as a mother and former teacher, the news was devastating.
“This sadly reinforces that the pandemic is not over and the precautions that we are taking are not just for our own safety, but for all Minnesotans – including our youngest students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine,” Mueller said in a statement. “We must finish out the school year strong. On behalf of our students and staff, please continue to get tested regularly, wash your hands, stay home when sick, wear a mask, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. These little acts all matter.”
The Pfizer vaccine is the only one currently approved for use on individuals aged 16 and older, but on April 9, the company requested FDA approval to begin vaccinating children aged 12-15.
A trial which enrolled 2,260 adolescents showed the vaccine to be 100 percent effective on the age group and side effects appeared to be comparable to those in adults, according to a March 31 Pfizer press release.
Wilkin County is among the bottom five counties in the state for vaccination rates. As of Sunday, 37 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine. The county with the lowest vaccination rate is Benton County, with 33 percent. Wilkin County’s percentage is just under Clay County’s 39 percent.
Both Wilkin and Clay counties border North Dakota cities like Wahpeton and Fargo, which expanded vaccinations earlier than Minnesota. Wilkin County residents who crossed the border to receive their dose could partially explain the lower vaccination rate.
A total of 1,545 people in the county have finished their vaccinations, and 1,866 have at least one dose. Individuals aged 65 and older have had the most vaccinations, and people aged 50-64 and 18-49 have similar vaccination numbers.
Meanwhile, Wilkin County maintains a higher COVID-19 positivity rate than the state average. According to the latest weekly report released April 22, the county had a 8.7 percent positivity rate, compared to the state’s 6.8 percent.