State to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, roughly 70% of Minnesota’s seniors now vaccinated

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Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Minnesota as roughly 70% of those 65 and older have now been vaccinated.

According to a governor’s office, the state will expand vaccine eligibility to include the next two phases of Minnesotans at once, starting Wednesday.

According to state officials, providers have been asked to prioritize Minnesotans within the first three vaccination phases and can then provide available appointments to Minnesotans in the next two phases.

"We asked most Minnesotans to wait patiently while we protected Minnesotans at higher risk and got shots to at least 70% of our seniors. We will hit that milestone on Wednesday – well ahead of schedule," Walz said in a statement. "More Minnesotans will now be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, beginning this week. To reach 70% of seniors vaccinated is an incredible accomplishment in itself, but it’s not the end goal: we will continue moving full steam ahead until every Minnesotan who wants a shot gets one."

There are about 1.8 million Minnesotans in the newly-eligible group. According to state officials, those who will be able to receive the vaccine starting this week include:

  • Phase 1b Tier 2 populations, including:
    • Minnesotans with specific underlying health conditions: Sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, those in cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant, oxygen-dependent chronic lung and heart conditions (COPD & CHF).
    • Targeted essential workers: Food processing plant workers.
    • Minnesotans with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness.
  • Phase 1b Tier 3 populations, including:
    • Minnesotans 45 and older with one or more underlying medical conditions identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • Minnesotans 16 and older with two or more underlying medical conditions identified by the CDC.
    • Minnesotans age 50 years and older in multi-generational housing.
    • Essential frontline workers: Agricultural, airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail, food service, judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, and U.S. Postal Service workers.

The state encourages Minnesotans to sign up for updates on vaccine availability and eligibility through the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector tool.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said getting these next two groups vaccinated will take several weeks. She noted the state projects it will take about 10 days to vaccinate those with underlying conditions and around two weeks to vaccinate food processing employees and then four to six weeks for those in the second phase.

Walz also reiterated that every Minnesotan will be able to get vaccinated and those who haven’t yet been vaccinated "our still our priority" but just need to be patient.

The governor added that the federal government is hopeful that the work between Merck and Johnson & Johnson will significantly boost the supply of the one-shot vaccine and help rapidly vaccinate the rest of the population in the coming months.

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