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Minnesota opens vaccine eligibility to next two groups starting Wednesday

About 1.8 million Minnesotans are newly eligible for the vaccine.

The state of Minnesota is expanding eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to the next two groups (phases) starting Wednesday. 

This comes as the state is expected to reach its goal of vaccinating 70% of Minnesotans 65 and older this week, which is about three weeks ahead of schedule. As of March 6, 66% of people 65 and older had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, state data show.

“We asked most Minnesotans to wait patiently while we protected Minnesotans at higher risk and got shots to at least 70% of our seniors. We will hit that milestone on Wednesday – well ahead of schedule. More Minnesotans will now be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, beginning this week,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “To reach 70% of seniors vaccinated is an incredible accomplishment in itself, but it’s not the end goal: we will continue moving full steam ahead until every Minnesotan who wants a shot gets one.”

Newly eligible groups

The next two groups (phases) include about 1.8 million Minnesotans. They are:

Phase 1B, Tier 2

  • Minnesotans with specific underlying health conditions: sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, those in cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant, oxygen-dependent chronic lung and heart conditions (COPD and CHF)
  • Food processing plant workers
  • Minnesotans with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness

Phase 1B, Tier 3:

  • People 45-64 with one or more specific underlying medical conditions (sickle cell disease, Down Syndrome, or oxygen-dependent chronic lung or heart conditions, those who are in active cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant, active cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, obesity and pregnancy)
  • People 16-44 with two or more specific underlying medical conditions (sickle cell disease, Down Syndrome, or oxygen-dependent chronic lung or heart conditions,  those who are in active cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant, active cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, obesity and pregnancy)
  • People 50 and older who live in multi-generational housing
  • Other essential frontline workers, including agricultural, airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail (grocery and convenience store workers), food service (including bar and restaurant workers), judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit, Postal Service workers

Opening it up to two groups at once is designed to provide flexibility to providers. However, providers have been directed to prioritize people with specific underlying health conditions (about 28,000 people), food processing plant workers (about 44,000 people) and Minnesotans with rare conditions or disabilities that put them at higher risk of severe illness (those in group Phase 1B, Tier 2).

Those in Phase 1B, Tier 3 should wait for their provider, employer or the state's Vaccine Connector to let them know when doses are available for them, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm said during Tuesday's news conference, which could be in about two weeks based on current vaccine supply. 

“Minnesota is national leader in getting doses to people quickly, and that hard work is paying off,” Walz said in a statement. “Because we have made such tremendous progress vaccinating Minnesotans over 65, we will be able to provide more shots, to more people, much more quickly than expected. This is good news for all Minnesotans. Today, we are one, large step closer to ending this pandemic.”

The state will continue to vaccinate those previously eligible for the vaccine, including those 65 and older, health care workers, educators, child care providers, first responders, and long-term care residents and staff. 

It'll take weeks to vaccinate these new groups

While demand for the vaccine still far exceeds supply, shipments of the vaccine from the federal government are increasing, Walz says. That being said, he encourages people to remain patient as every who is eligible gets vaccinated. 

Walz during Tuesday's news conference said it's going to take "weeks" to get these new groups vaccinated. 

Based on the current vaccine supply, Malcolm estimates it'll take about 10 days to vaccinate the group with underlying conditions and about two weeks for food processing plant workers (who will be vaccinated concurrently). Then it'll take about 4-6 weeks to vaccinate the larger group of essential workers in Phase 1B, Tier 3 and younger people with underlying conditions, based on current supply. 

That being said, there are indications the vaccine supply will increase soon, so the timeline could be shortened again.

The state's website says people 16 and older with any underlying medical condition, those 50-64 (regardless of health condition) and all other essential workers can expect to get the vaccine in May-June. 

And come summer, every Minnesotan who wants a vaccine should be able to get one. 

Here's the state's website for who can get vaccinated, with a more detailed breakdown of who's eligible here. The state encourages Minnesotans who haven't yet gotten the vaccine to sign up for the Vaccine Connector here, which will provide updates on vaccine availability and eligibility. Your health care provider or employer may also provide more information on vaccine eligibility, the state says. 

As of March 6, more than 1 million Minnesotans (19.3% of the population) had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while nearly 600,000 people (10.6% of the population) had gotten both doses, according to MDH

The state has administered 1,655,056 doses as of March 6. 

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