The Minnesota Department of Health us now urging health providers to give COVID-19 vaccinations to a broader range of people, including those aged 65+.
Thus far, Minnesota's vaccine supply has been earmarked for healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities.
But with the federal government changing its guidance for vaccine distribution this week, MDH says it's now urging hospitals, health systems, and other vaccination partners to start vaccinating "broader categories of Minnesotans."
Further guidance on the vaccine rollout will be revealed in the coming days, but the health department identified those aged 65 and older as those who will be able to get the vaccine, given elderly people are more susceptible to severe complications from the virus.
The change in guidance is designed to encourage hospitals and other health providers to use up their vaccine doses "as quickly as possible" while still prioritizing those most in need of protection.
This won't necessarily mean there will suddenly be a huge amount of doses available for the state's elderly population, with MDH cautioning that the state is still experiencing a limited supply of the vaccine from the federal government.
Rather, it will give flexibility to health systems and other providers around the state, who have faced logistical and administrative challenges that have hampered efforts to vaccinate those in priority groups. So far, only around 33% of vaccination doses delivered to providers have been used.
The Star Tribune is also reporting that long-term care facilities in Minnesota have said that 30-60% of staff have refused the vaccine for now amid concerns over side effects. (The CDC says any side effects are typically mild and disappear after a few days at most, while allergic reactions are rare).
"We are approaching the end of our earliest stages of the vaccine rollout, and we want to make sure all vaccines in the state are getting into arms as quickly as possible,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
"The state is making sure that providers have nothing holding them back from immediately using any and all vaccine they have available. That said, the reality is that we have far more Minnesotans wanting the vaccine than we have doses available from the federal government. We are ready to get more vaccines out very quickly, but now we desperately need the federal government to step up and provide us with more vaccine."
So far, 153,332 people in Minnesota have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, with 15,082 having received both.
Some 558,300 doses have been promised to Minnesota from the CDC, with 400,450 having been distributed to providers in the state.
"It will be some time before the federal government provides our state with enough vaccine to cover all those currently eligible," Malcolm added.
"Minnesota is ready to move on anything we get immediately, and we are working quickly to create new options for Minnesotans to schedule a vaccine. We’ll be sharing more details on this in the next few days.”