The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine started arriving in Minnesota Monday morning as the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history gets underway.
The federal Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Distribution of the vaccines began Sunday, with doses of the vaccine going to 636 predetermined locations across the U.S., Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna said during a news conference on Saturday.
"We expect 145 sites across all the states to receive the vaccine on Monday," Perna said, "another 425 sites on Tuesday and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer orders for the vaccine."
Four sites in Minnesota received vaccine shipments on Monday: the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, Olmsted Medical Center, and Cass Lake Indian Health Services.
“This is an exciting day for Minnesota,” Gov. Tim Walz, who was at the VA medical center to watch the shipment arrive, said in a news release. “The first vaccines are here. They are safe, and they will be ready to go soon. The sun is coming up, Minnesota”
“With these first shipments, we will soon begin vaccinating thousands of health care workers and the most critically at-risk Minnesotans,” Walz added. “All Minnesotans will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine in time, but until then, we need to stay safe and keep up the fight.”
The Olmsted Medical Center received about 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine around 7 a.m. Monday, KTTC reports. And the Minneapolis VA hospital received about 3,000 doses around 9 a.m., according to FOX 9's Seth Kaplan.
Throughout this week, Minnesota is expected to receive a total of 46,800 units of the vaccine across its 25 distribution "hubs" around the state, the release said. These hubs are set up to directly receive vaccine deliveries via the national vaccine distribution chain, state officials said.
From the hubs, the vaccines will be distributed out to smaller hospitals or clinics ("spokes"). Health care providers will then administer the vaccine to Minnesotans based on the state's "phased approach," which prioritizes healthcare workers and long-term care residents in phase one.
In total, Minnesota is expected to get 183,000 doses of the vaccine in the first four weeks, which includes two Moderna shipments totaling 136,600 doses (the FDA is expected to give the Moderna vaccine the OK soon).
First Minnesotans to be vaccinated in coming days
While some people in the U.S. received doses of the Pfizer vaccine Monday morning, the first Minnesotans likely won't be vaccinated until later this week, MDH spokesperson Doug Schultz told Bring Me The News.
That's because healthcare providers need to complete the required training before administering the first doses.
“While we have hundreds of experienced nurses and vaccine providers in the state, this vaccine is new and complex and vaccinating thousands of people in a short time is a massive undertaking, so the training is critical to ensure vaccines are administered according to protocols,” Kristen Ehresmann, MDH's director of infectious disease, said in a statement.
Walz suggested the first vaccines could be administered in the next 24-48 hours, according to FOX 9. While MDH says most of the vaccinations for people in phase one will begin next week, Dec. 21, with MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm saying in a call with reporters Monday that their priority is safety, not speed.
“It will be several months before the average Minnesotan will be able to be vaccinated, but we will get there,” Malcolm said in a statement. “These first vaccine deliveries are one small but very important step in the right direction. In the meantime, we must be patient and absolutely must continue to take those measures that keep all Minnesotans safe: wear a mask when in public, maintain social distancing, get tested, and properly isolate and quarantine when needed.”
MDH's vaccine website is available here.