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Birth Announcement

COVID vaccine for kids authorized, offered locally

Tribal Health offers vaccine clinics in Arlee, Ronan, Polson

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Tribal Health nurses were in Polson schools and other locations last week, offering parents the opportunity to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19. 

After rigorous studies, the Centers for Disease Control recently authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5-11. Kids under 12 receive an age-appropriate dose that is one-third of the adult dose and delivered with smaller needles. They need a second shot three weeks after receiving the first. 

Adolescents ages 12 years and older receive the same dosage of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as adults, and also require a second shot. 

Linderman Principal Kristin Wilson said about 20 children received their first dose last Tuesday evening. “The parents who were there were excited about the vaccines being available for their children,” she said. “It went very smoothly.” 

Another clinic is slated for Thursday, Nov. 18, at Cherry Valley Elementary School.

Two employees at St. Luke Community Healthcare who were eager to get their children vaccinated spoke to their confidence in the vaccine, and their hope that it would help protect both kids and the community. 

“There are many reasons why we wanted to get our kids vaccinated,” said Jen Nelson, the hospital’s infection control nurse. Her husband, Seth, is pastor at Ronan’s Lutheran church, and the couple’s children, Freja and Otto, were vaccinated last week. 

“Mostly we wanted to protect those we pray for in our church, our kids’ friends in school and our neighbors we care for here in Ronan,” she said.

Whitney Liegakos, St. Luke’s head of community education and public relations, had her 7-year-old daughter, Elise Cantlon, vaccinated last week too. “She was a bit nervous, but proud of herself for being one of the first kids in her school to get this vaccine.”

Elise had no side effects, other than a slightly sore arm, “and that’s mostly because it’s hard for kids to hold still when getting any shot,” said her mom. 

Liegakos says the decision to have her daughter vaccinated against a potentially deadly virus was an easy one to make. “I trust the science behind vaccines, including the COVID vaccine,” she said. “Our whole family is vaccinated and some of us have already received our boosters. We wanted her to share the same benefits of protection that we have by being vaccinated.”

Elise was on board too, Liegakos said, “not only to protect herself, but to help protect her elders.”

Currently, Tribal Health and WalMart are the only ones in Lake County offering the kid-size doses of Pfizer. The Federal Drug Administration has not yet authorized the Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccines for anyone under 18.

Tribal Health is offering weekly vaccine clinics for ages 5-11 (minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian). Clinics in Polson and Arlee – offered from 2-6 p.m. Tuesdays at KwaTaqNuk and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays at the Arlee Fitness Center – are open to anyone 5 and up. A clinic from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Ronan Health Center is only for kids 5-11. Appointments are preferred (call 406-745-3525 or visit, but walk-ins are welcome too. 

COVID booster shots are more widely available, and may be given to people 65 and older, those 18-49 with underlying medical conditions, and those 18-64 who are at increased risk of exposure or transmission due to work or living environments. The CDC also allows healthcare providers to combine COVID-19 shots with other vaccines, such as those preventing influenza or pneumonia.

Schools across Lake County have battled the pandemic this fall with varying degrees of success. In St. Ignatius, the district has tallied a total of 37 cases among staff and students, and last week posted zero. 

“Our numbers have been very low this year and at this time we have not had an active case in the past two weeks,” said Superintendent Jason Sargent via email. “We are pleased with this and hope we can stay at zero.”

He attributes the district’s success to multiple strategies, including improved air filtration, rigorous sanitation and hand-washing, making masks available to students and staffs, social distancing where possible, and parents’ cooperation in keeping symptomatic kids home. “It’s definitely been a team effort,” he adds. 

Ronan Superintendent Mark Johnston is also pleased with the success of COVID-containment measures in his district. “So for this year, we have been in good shape with our positive COVID numbers for both staff and students,” he reports. “We all know this can change in an instant, but so far we’ve been fortunate.”

Ronan had three positive cases posted for the first week in November, down considerably from a high of 25 in late September. School nurses Nichele Marmon and Amanda Gilliland have reported an uptick in the number of parents choosing to vaccinate their children. 

“But as a district we feel it is the parent’s choice on whether or not to have them vaccinated,” said Johnston – a sentiment that’s shared across the county. 

Polson’s schools had no new COVID cases reported for the first two weeks of November, a relief to Superintendent Mike Cutler. “Late September and early October is another story,” he said. So far, a total of 143 students and 27 staff members have tested positive, with the highest number of students (51) at Polson Middle School, and the most staff members (11) at Cherry Valley. 

While local healthcare providers are fielding some calls from parents about vaccines for kids, more calls are coming in from adults about the availability of boosters.

“I would bet that most parents are just trying to gather sufficient information to make an informed decision,” said Devin Huntley, COO at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson. 

“One of the biggest concerns we’re hearing has to do with the sheer amount of information available to people,” he added. “It’s hard to keep it all straight because it’s constantly being updated or changing. There is also a lot of misinformation being circulated, which certainly adds to the confusion.”

Medical staff spends “a good deal of time” keeping up-to-date and relies on the CDC and FDA before making any changes to vaccination policies. 

“The demand for the booster hasn’t been as high as for the initial vaccination series, but there has been a lot of interest,” he said, noting that Lake County’s plethora of providers and pharmacies make vaccines and booster shots relatively easy to come by.

According to St. Luke Director of Nursing Abigail Byers, “We are having lots of demand for the booster and third doses, which has been great to see.” 

Providers are also discussing vaccines with their patients regularly, whether it’s for children, themselves, or a loved one. “It’s one of those conversations that comes up in almost every visit,” she says.

For the crew at Lake County Public Health that’s tasked with contact tracing for those who test positive for COVID, the current slowdown in cases is welcome. 

“In September and October, we were getting 30-40 cases per day on average and now we were seeing about 10-20 per day,” says Public Health Director Emily Colomeda. “This is still more than we would like to see, obviously, but any decrease in caseload helps.”

With the holiday season fast approaching, “We are not letting our guard down yet.” 

For the most current information on the coronavirus and vaccination recommendations and research, head to

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