For months, Minnesota officials have treated the COVID-19 vaccines like gold but now with more supply and in an effort to get more shots into more arms, they're more OK with a little waste.
The Minnesota Department of Health on May 14 updated its COVID-19 vaccine provider guide for those administering the vaccines, renaming its "do not waste vaccine" section to "do not miss an opportunity to vaccinate," an MDH bulletin says.
"Ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to receive vaccine should be balanced with vaccine wastage," the guidance now says, listing off a few strategies to minimize waste "but do not miss an opportunity to vaccinate someone, even if that means not every dose in a vial can be used."
MDH infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said the original "do not waste" policy stems from the winter when vaccine doses were in extremely short supply, but now there are ample doses so the state is focusing on getting more people vaccinated, the Star Tribune says.
"If someone walks up [to a vaccine clinic] and says they want to be vaccinated, and it's the end of the day, we want to get that person vaccinated," she said, according to the Star Tribune. "We don't want to miss that chance."
In a statement to Bring Me The News, MDH said:
"Minnesota has been a leader in vaccine efficiency, with vaccine waste being uncommon. More than 5.7 million vaccine doses have been distributed to Minnesota, and only 3,522 have been reported as wasted. Minnesota has changed its guidance for avoiding COVID-19 vaccine waste in order to better meet the challenge of making sure that shots are available when people want them. The new guidance strives to meet the ongoing goal of avoiding waste while allowing providers more flexibility to not miss an opportunity to vaccinate. Minnesota still must report wastage to federal regulators, and MDH does not expect the change to result in substantially more waste."
More than half of Minnesota's population that's 16 and older is vaccinated, with MDH noting 62.4% of those 16-plus have at least one dose and more than 54% have completed the vaccine series.
Meanwhile, 50% of the state's total population as of May 18 has at least one dose and 43.3% of the whole state has completed the vaccine series.
After an initial surge in vaccinations after all adults became eligible in late March, the state's vaccination rate has slowed in recent weeks. More than 407,000 people got vaccines the week of April 4 while just over 223,000 people got a dose the week of May 9.
Now the state is focusing its efforts to reach those reluctant to get the shot or those who have limited access or mobility, such as with mobile vaccination clinics. And Gov. Tim Walz said he's considering incentives to motivate more people to get vaccinated.