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Minnesota health commissioner receives dose of J&J vaccine

By MOHAMED IBRAHIM Associated Press/Report for America

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz joined Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm at a COVID-19 vaccination site on Wednesday as Malcolm received a dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on camera in an effort to show trust in the vaccine approved late last month.

Malcolm said appointments for the J&J vaccine offered by clinics across the state have been slower to fill due to early discussions about the vaccine’s effectiveness compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. After receiving a call from her doctor to say she was eligible for a dose, Malcolm said she opted to receive the J&J vaccine to demonstrate her confidence in its effectiveness.

“We just want to reinforce the effectiveness at that most critical end of the continuum of severe disease and hospitalization and death,” Malcolm said during a news conference before receiving the shot. “I think that as word gets out that this is a highly effective vaccine where it matters most, hopefully any concerns people have about its effectiveness can be addressed.”

Malcolm said the single-shot J&J vaccine, which takes two weeks for full protection, offers a convenience factor over the other two vaccines that require two doses scheduled weeks apart to take full effect.

Walz said the addition of a third vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration allows for more doses to come to be allocated to the state, allowing state officials to ramp up vaccination efforts even further. Walz on Wednesday expanded eligibility for the vaccines after the state reached its goal of inoculating 70% of people 65 and older weeks ahead of schedule.

The governor said early federal projections show Minnesota will receive an allotment of approximately 300,000 doses in the last week of March, a dramatic increase from the state’s current allotment of around 130,000 doses. President Biden on Wednesday announced plans to purchase 100 million more doses of the J&J vaccine to shore up the U.S. supply of doses.

Meanwhile, city leaders in Ramsey have voted to stop enforcing Walz’s mask mandate with proponents arguing it infringes on an individual’s constitutional rights. It was not immediately clear what liability the city might face as a result of the 4-3 City Council vote Tuesday night which was discouraged by city attorney Joe Langel.

“You can’t ignore (the executive order) because you disagree with it,” he said before the vote. “It still has the full force of the law.”

Mayor Mark Kuzma, who returned to work this week after recovering from COVID, voted against the measure.

Minnesotans have been required since July 25 to wear masks in all indoor businesses and public indoor spaces, unless they’re alone. Individuals are also are required to wear a face covering when working outdoors in situations that don’t allow for physical distancing. Some states have relaxed their own mandates. Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, North Dakota and Montana have ended or will soon end statewide mask requirements even with variants of COVID-19 still circulating.

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Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.