Walz: All Minnesotans 16 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday

Friday, Gov. Tim Walz announced the next steps in Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, including expanded eligibility to all Minnesotans 16 and older next week.

Walz said the federal government has played a major role in this expansion, promising to increase the vaccine supply in just days.

The state has already vaccinated 80% of seniors and more than two-thirds of educators and child care workers.

"I feel confident in what we’re hearing from the White House," Walz said. "We’re getting about three weeks of lead time. At around the 29th of March, we can expect a massive increase and Minnesota’s ecosystem, if you will, between state, private and pharmacies will be ready to go."

Last week, Walz talked to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about the success of the vaccine rollout. Minnesota has consistently been among the top 10 states for the percentage of vaccine doses administered for the last month. This week, Walz said the state ranked No. 1.

When the rollout first began, groups—like those with specific, underlying medical conditions and targeted essential workers—were expected to be eligible somewhere between the months of March and April. Instead, that happened weeks earlier. And even at one point, the general public wasn’t expected to be eligible for the vaccine until sometime this summer.

Meanwhile, the race is on to get more Minnesotans vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid another surge in cases. Health officials said the U.K. variant is now believed to be widespread in the state.

"We have to outrun these variants," Walz said Friday, urging Minnesotans to continue following health guidelines while the vaccination efforts continue.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Walz both talked about the process and how certain people will still be a priority.

"That healthy 20-year-old might be told, ‘Yes you are eligible, but we don’t have a vaccine this week. We will let you know when we do,’" Malcolm said Thursday. "So there is just an important difference for folks to understand eligibility and your place in line."

While all Minnesotans will become eligible to receive the vaccine starting Tuesday, not every Minnesotan will be immediately able to make an appointment. Vaccine shipments from the federal government will continue increasing during the coming weeks, but for now demand will still exceed supply.

"This does not necessarily mean you’re going to get this next week, it means you’re in line," Walz said during Friday’s press conference. Malcolm added that the larger pool of eligibility adds flexibility for health care providers.

Health officials said they will continue to work closely with health care providers to identify people who are at higher risk and ensure that they’re prioritized.

They also continued to urge Minnesotans to be patient but to get the vaccine when their turn arrives. More information on that can be found on the state’s Vaccine Connector site.

"Getting vaccinated is going to get us back to the things we love and the things we’ve missed," Malcolm said.

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