News that Pfizer and Moderna have successfully created COVID-19 vaccines and are in the process of getting FDA permission for emergency use has renewed hope of light at the end of the tunnel, but a Mayo Clinic spokesperson clarified Friday that large scale distribution of the vaccine is unlikely until well into 2021.
"I can clarify that there probably will not be any large scale vaccine distribution until well into the new year. People need to continue to mask," a spokesperson from Mayo Clinic said in an email to Bring Me The News. "The first round of vaccines will be limited and will be aimed at those at highest risk, per government direction."
Those at highest risk are vulnerable persons with underlying health conditions, in addition to healthcare workers who would then be able to stay on the job without worry of infection or having to quarantine due to an exposure.
Mayo Clinic has had more than 900 staff test positive for COVID-19 in the past couple of weeks. Carris Health, with clinics all over west-central Minnesota, is down approximately 1,200 workers for COVID-related reasons, and Allina Health has been short 800 workers.
Minnesota is currently preparing for what Gov. Tim Walz says is a complex process of receiving, storing and distributing the vaccine, which feature recipients receiving two shots at different times.
"We've got to have storage, we've got to have distribution, we've got to know where people are going to get this," Walz said during an appearance on WCCO Radio Friday morning. "Millions of people eventually will need to be vaccinated. You have to keep records of this. This is a two-shot series."
"We're prepared [for] the onslaught of the data making sure that we're able to capture that," he added. "I think it's OK to get a little bit excited."
Pfizer, which says its vaccine is 95% effective, requested permission for emergency distribution. The drug-maker hopes to distribute 50 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year, and a further 1.3 billion worldwide in 2021.
"This Pfizer news is huge. They're applying today. They're talking about mid-December," said Walz. "Whether that happens or not, I don't know. But the state of Minnesota, while we don't control how they're going to do that, we do control what happens to our hospitals and what happens to our neighbors, so I would ask folks again to give this one more shot and let's get through this."
Beginning at 11:59 p.m. Friday, Minnesota goes into a four-week partial shutdown that restricts social interactions with people outside of your immediate household, along with closing dine-in service at bars and restaurants, closing down fitness centers and banning receptions after weddings and funerals.