• By DeeDee Stiepan

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services visits Mayo Clinic to emphasize the importance of pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations

November 10, 2021

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra visited Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, to celebrate the availability of safe, highly effective COVID-19 vaccines for children 5–11. He was joined by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, and other state and local leaders to highlight the hard work and strong science behind the vaccines, which remain a key asset in the fight against COVID-19. They were welcomed by Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, along with other Mayo Clinic leaders.

After meeting with some children who were getting their first COVID-19 vaccine at Mayo Clinic, Becerra held a press conference to encourage families to take advantage of the COVID-19 vaccines being offered for kids 5–11. He was joined by Mayo Clinic's Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, and Wale Elegbede, a parent of a child vaccinated for COVID-19 at the event and a director of Strategy Management Services at Mayo Clinic. 

Watch: HHS Secretary Becerra visits Mayo Clinic to encourage pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality soundbites and b-roll are available in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network."

"It's such a blessing to be able to say that the scientists have said to us that we can give that very effective vaccine — that's kept so many adult Americans alive and so many adolescents alive — now to our youngest, 5–11. I hope the message is really clear to any Minnesotan who happens to have an opportunity to listen; we have to protect our kids," says Becerra.

"Parents should be looking at this as a lifesaver for their kids, and think of it with that kind of pride in our American ingenuity that so many of these vaccines have been developed by our scientists and are being implemented by our health system and by our fine doctors and nurses," says Klobuchar.

"Vaccinating our 5- to 11-year-olds lets kids be kids. It lets them go back and stay in school. It lets them participate in sports. It lets them do sleepovers. And if we do it now, it lets them spend time with loved ones over the holidays where everyone is safe, everyone is vaccinated," says Walz.

"To all the brave kids out there who are going to be rolling up their sleeves in the next few weeks, I'd like to say thank you," says Dr. Rajapakse. "Thank you for doing your part in protecting yourselves, your families, your communities, and making everyone safer and healthier. You are all superheroes who are helping us get one step closer to bringing this pandemic to an end."

"As a parent, I feel a lot safer that our son is now vaccinated," says Elegbede. "COVID-19 is affecting a lot of families, and it's no joke. I also think from an equity perspective we need to make sure that these vaccinations are available to all kids. A lot of families in the African American community, Latinos, Native Americans are really hurting. We know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, we know it hasn't been rushed and that a lot of investment has gone into this. So as parent, our family feels a lot more comfortable today, and we need to make sure that gets extended out to everybody."

Dr. Rajapakse, who is an expecting mother, also encouraged other pregnant women to get vaccinated.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage all pregnant women out there to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. The vaccine has been demonstrated to be safe and effective in pregnancy. I personally got my booster just a few weeks ago and have had some relief in knowing my baby will have some of these protective antibodies transferred to her before she's born," says Dr. Rajapakse.

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Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date

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