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Gov. Walz launches 'Vax to School' campaign ahead of new academic year

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A day after Minnesota's health and education leaders recommended all students aged 12-17 get vaccinated before the school year, the Office of Gov. Tim Walz launched a campaign to make it happen.

The State of Minnesota has launched a "Vax to School" campaign with the intention of getting as many students over the age of 12 vaccinated for COVID-19 before school restarts in early September.

Minnesotans aged 12 and over are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but only a minority of them have been vaccinated so far. It comes as concerns ramp up about the spread of the delta COVID-19 variant, which is seeing cases of the virus increase in Minnesota.

Walz's office says that only around a third of Minnesota children aged 12-15 have been vaccinated, and fewer than half of those aged 16-17. The whole course of the vaccine takes around five weeks to become fully protected, and there are currently six weeks till most schools start.

"Unvaccinated kids remain vulnerable to life-threatening symptoms and long-term health consequences from virus exposure," the release from Walz's office says.

"Our kids deserve to be kids again," Gov. Walz said. "In-person learning is critical to a child’s well-being and academic success. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep our students healthy, keep our educators and families safe, and prevent the virus from spreading in our communities."

The Minnesota Departments of Health and Education on Wednesday issued guidance in which they urged everyone aged 12 and up to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as recommending everyone in K-12 schools, whether vaccinated or not, wear face masks while indoors.

But ultimately, as a peacetime emergency has not been declared by Gov. Walz, the requirements for mask wearing will be up to individual school districts.

As part of the effort to improve vaccination rates, Walz's office says that over the next month, the campaign "will highlight voices from educators, pediatricians, and parents on the safety, efficacy, and critical need to get students 12 years of age and older vaccinated against this deadly virus."

“These vaccines work — we’re preventing severe illness and reducing the spread of the virus with every vaccine we administer,” Walz said. “Our students, educators, and school staff deserve this level of protection as they head back to the classroom this fall.”

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