MDH COVID-19 briefing: Vaccine rollout continues, 65+ group could take ‘weeks’ to complete

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Minnesota health officials took part in a COVID-19 situation update briefing on Tuesday.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division Kris Ehresmann joined the call with reporters to discuss the latest data, an update on the vaccine rollout and important notes.

A piece of good news noted in the call is the state’s seven-day rolling positivity rate remains below 5%. Malcolm has noted in the past that anything above 5% is a high-spread situation in terms of contracting the virus. Malcolm said, as of Tuesday, the rate sits at 4.4%. Additionally, the average number of new positive COVID-19 cases in all long-term care facilities in the past week didn’t eclipse the 100-mark for the first time since September.

MDH reports 8 new COVID-related deaths, 633 new cases

As for the vaccination rollout, Ehresmann said the process is moving "safely and quickly."

"We are getting Minnesotans vaccinated quickly and safely as supply comes to us," she said during the briefing Tuesday.

Reiterating what was said Monday, Ehresmann said the state still needs more vaccine doses from the federal government in order to speed up the process and have more people vaccinated.

"Until we get more vaccine, it’s going to continue to be extremely difficult to get an appointment," she said, noting that nearly 1 million Minnesotans are 65 years old or older.

MDH has also fielded some reports of Minnesotans being contacted about vaccine opportunities, which both Malcolm and Ehresmann said are scams. The calls will include the scammer asking for credit card or bank information, and for a social security number, which are telling signs that it is a scam, as MDH won’t ask for any of that private information.

"Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get a vaccine appointment yet… there will be opportunities for everyone to get it but it takes time," Ehresmann said.

Vaccine supply boost expected as state increases number of vaccination sites

Ehresmann and Malcolm spoke again about the importance of getting everyone that is 65 years and older vaccinated before moving on to the next category.

In regards to what happens after a person receives the vaccine, Malcolm says it’s still unknown what the vaccine’s effect on the ability to transmit COVID-19 to others is, so those who are vaccinated will still need to follow the health guidelines. Ehresmann said until there is about 80% of residents are vaccinated, everyone will still need to follow mitigation efforts.

Minnesota to launch 2 permanent vaccination sites, make 35K doses available for those 65+ this week

Other important items to note from the recent briefing:

  • Ehresmann said, even with the recent uptick in vaccine allocation, it will take several months (around 16 weeks) to get through the large population if allocations aren’t boosted later on.
  • Ehresmann called it "heartbreaking" that there currently aren’t enough vaccines for vulnerable populations and everyone else. MDH is attempting to target doses the department does get in order to create the greatest impact.