70% of older Minnesotans to be vaccinated before next phase

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — At least 70% of Minnesotans age 65 and older will get at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine before the state moves on to the next phase of vaccinations, Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday.

The governor announced the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which will expand eligibility based on underlying health conditions and workplace exposure risk.

Based on current projections, the next group of Minnesotans eligible for a vaccine will begin getting inoculated in April, and every Minnesotan should be able to get a vaccine by this summer, according to Walz. He said he hopes the vaccinations move even faster as more supplies, including the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine now under federal review, become available.

“We can’t do it fast enough. Every single governor in this country is hearing the same things,” Walz said of vaccinations. “It’s simply a supply and demand issue, folks. There’s not enough vaccines still at this point in time.”

Republican state Sen. Karin Housley, of Stillwater, who has criticized Walz’s approach to vaccinating seniors, called it a step in the right direction.

“For months I have been begging Governor Walz to put our seniors first in the state’s vaccination efforts,” Housley said. “Today, we finally have a public commitment from the governor that our seniors will be prioritized.”

So far, 42% of Minnesotans age 65 or older have gotten at least one shot, according to state estimates, the Star Tribune reported. The state is also vaccinating school and child care employees in the current phase, which came after health care workers and long-term care residents were inoculated.

The next phase, once 70% of seniors get their first shot, will include individuals with specific high risk conditions, including sickle cell disease, Down syndrome and those being actively treated for cancer. Food processing plant workers will also be included in the early spring phase.

By late spring, people 45 to 64 years with one or more high risk medical conditions, people 16 to 44 with two or more high risk conditions, people over 50 in multi-generational housing and essential frontline worker, such as first responders, will be eligible for the vaccine.