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

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The Minnesota Department of Health now has its third vaccination plan in three weeks aimed at getting vaccines to Minnesotans over age 65.

The state announced Monday that it will make more than 35,000 vaccine doses available to Minnesotans in that age group. Those who are able to get vaccinated will be able to do so at one of more than 100 clinics, hospitals and state community vaccination sites.

"(We’re) really increasingly moving the vaccine out into communities to meet seniors where they are," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "So…the majority of these doses are going out to more than 100 local clinics, hospitals and other health care providers in communities around Minnesota."

Additionally, the state launched an online map to help Minnesotans find vaccination opportunities in their area and contact those providers with questions. The state said the locator currently provides information for seniors but will expand over time as more Minnesotans become eligible for the vaccine.

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After using nine sites for the COVID-19 pilot program, the state will now make large-scale, permanent vaccination sites.

According to Gov. Tim Walz’s office, the first two large-scale site will be in Minneapolis and Duluth. A third location will launch next week in southern Minnesota before other locations begin launching in the near future.

The sites will serve all Minnesotans ages 65 and older, and the Minneapolis location will also serve educators and staff and child care professionals.

The state said more than 220,000 Minnesotans registered for the state’s COVID-19 pilot program registry last week. Those who weren’t selected will remain on the list and continue to have the opportunity to be selected to schedule a vaccination appointment.

Those who received their first dose at one of the pilot program locations will return to those sites for their second dose.

Republican state Senator Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, criticized the Walz administration for a haphazard approach to vaccinating seniors.

"We want to see the plan," Housley said at a news conference in the Senate Office Building along with several other GOP senators. "Not this ‘new week, new protocols, new website, new pilot sites.’ We just want to see the plan."

Education and child care staff will also have the chance to receive the vaccine this week at a large-scale site in Minneapolis or one of 35 county local public health clinics across the state. Pharmacies in Brainerd, St. Cloud and Rochester will also provide shots to education and child care personnel.

State officials said staff in education and child care settings will be contacted directly to sign up for appointments if they’re selected.

Housley said educators and child care workers should not be prioritized before seniors.

"Every day that goes by that a senior doesn’t get the vaccine is another day their life is at risk," Housley said, pointing to statistics showing 89 percent of COVID deaths in the state are among people over 65. "There can be no more redistribution of the vaccine. It has to be seniors first. Then move to the other phases and get the vaccine to everyone else. That’s the data. It’s plain and it’s simple. Seniors first!"

Governor Walz says his administration is doing its best to balance competing priorities to vaccinate people as close to their homes as possible.

"We have long planned for most Minnesotans to get vaccinated in the places they are used to getting their health care – places like smaller clinics, local hospitals, and community pharmacies," Gov. Tim Walz said. "But not everyone has a doctor or pharmacy they’re familiar with. That’s why we’ve built up a reliable network of different ways Minnesotans will be able to access the vaccine. After careful planning, we’re now activating that network to give Minnesotans options close to home."

"We still need more supply, but we have to work quickly with what we do have and be ready when the federal government ramps up to meet the demand. Today we’re expanding locations offering the vaccine and helping connect our seniors to shots where they live, so we can get to work crushing COVID-19 across Minnesota," Walz added.

The governor also said, "We need to jumpstart our vaccination efforts, and our vaccine pilot program taught us important lessons about how we do that. These new, more permanent community vaccine sites are an important part of our strategy to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine. In Minnesota, we’re building a network of choices for people to get their vaccine. Tens of thousands of Minnesotans will get their shot this week and we will be ready to roll out even more vaccine to people who need it – as soon as the federal government provides us with more doses."