Minnesota has reached another landmark in its fight against COVID-19, with 70% of residents aged 16 and over now having had at least one vaccine dose.
The state hit that figure this week, according to Thursday's COVID dashboard update, with 66.2% of those aged 16 and over having completed their vaccine series.
Gov. Tim Walz in a statement called vaccines "our key to fighting COVID-19 and the Delta variant."
“Minnesotans are continuing to answer the urgent call and do their part to end this pandemic," he said, later noting "there is no time to waste in making sure every Minnesotan who can get the shot does so."
This new threshold comes about five weeks after the state announced a 70% vaccination rate for those age 18 and up. Minnesota was one of just 17 states to reach that mark before July 4.
The latest achievement comes amid an ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases compared to just one month ago, a surge being driven by the virulent delta variant. But the state has also seen a ramp-up of vaccinations in recent weeks, particularly among those ages 12-49.
The number of first doses administered recently has risen 129% compared to a month ago, Walz's office said. The pace of vaccinations has been buoyed, it appears, by the state's offer of $100 for every person who gets a shot until Aug. 15, as well as the dangers presented by the delta variant.
“Every shot in the arm is critical in our fight against COVID-19,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan in a statement. “I am so grateful for the millions of Minnesotans who have gotten vaccinated to help us fight off the Delta variant and protect our state."
When COVID-19 first appeared, experts believed a 70% vaccination rate would be required to achieve the "herd immunity" level necessary to fully beat back the virus. Walz also set a goal of achieving a 70% vaccination rate among those 16-and-up by July 1.
But 70% is likely insufficient now, with experts now saying the herd immunity figure is probably 85-90%, due in large part to the emergence of variants.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Minnesota currently leads the Midwest in the percentage of the overall population who have completed their vaccination series (54.4%), as well as residents 65-and-older with at least one vaccine dose (93%). Minnesota is still one of only two Midwestern states to achieve President Joe Biden’s goal to get 70% of adults at least one vaccine dose by July 4.