Speeding up the COVID-19 vaccination process in Minnesota will depend mostly on whether the federal government can ramp up its distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are both two-dose vaccines that need to be administered 3-4 weeks apart.
Minnesota is currently receiving just 60,000 doses per week from the federal government, and at that current rate Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm said it could take until June to vaccinate Minnesotans 65 and older, school teachers and child care providers.
It was announced Monday that people in these categories are next in line to receive the vaccine once the approximately 500,000 healthcare workers and staff/residents of long-term care settings receive both doses.
With the incoming Biden Administration vowing to ramp up vaccine production, more help from the federal government should be forthcoming, but Malcolm said the state is expecting to receive 60,000 doses a week for at least the next several weeks.
Gov. Walz, speaking on a press call Monday, said there will be millions of Minnesotans who will be eligible for the vaccine, but the problem is that many of the vaccination sites that are opening around the state will only have "hundreds" of doses "until the federal government simply moves faster."
"Not all eligible people will actually be able to get a vaccination in the near future here. As Gov. Walz said, we desperately need more doses from the federal government," said Malcolm.
The process to receive a vaccine will vary depending who you are. If you're 65 or older, your healthcare provider will let you know when they have vaccine available. Folks 65 and older can also go to mn.gov/vaccine beginning at 12 p.m. Tuesday to attempt to schedule an appointment at one of the nine pilot sites for vaccination in Minnesota.
But Walz said MDH is expecting a huge rush from people trying to book an appointment, saying: "This is going to be harder than going to Ticketmaster and trying to get Bruce Springsteen tickets."
The nine vaccination sites will be in Anoka, Brooklyn Center, Fergus Falls, Marshall, Mountain Iron, North Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls.
Appointments can also be made by calling 612-426-7230, or 833-431-2053.
Educators and child care providers should not attempt to book an appointment until they have been notified by their employer.
"Your school or child care program will be working directly with you to schedule appointments, and you'll receive more information about that process from your employer," said Malcolm.
This means there will likely be thousands of elementary teachers in Minnesota returning their classroom for in-person instruction with full classrooms in February while not yet having had the vaccine.
Malcolm estimated that the 500,000 healthcare workers and long-term are residents who are first in line for the vaccine should be done by. the end of January or early February, which would result in more opportunity for people 65 and older, educators and child care providers to receive the vaccine.
"We urge Minnesotans to be patient, however, because limited vaccine supply continues to persist. At this time, there are still health care workers and high-risk patients in congregate care settings waiting to receive their vaccinations," said Minnesota Medical Association President Marilyn Peitso, MD. "We also know this disease has disproportionately harmed Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and it is imperative that the state work to distribute vaccines to Minnesotans who are most at risk as quickly as possible."
Minnesota has been promised more than 624,000 vaccine doses by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of which just over 407,000 have been received by providers in the state, MDH data show.