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Walz among 8 governors calling on federal government to send out more vaccines

Walz says that 50% of produced vaccines are being held back.

Gov. Tim Walz has joined seven other governors in calling on the federal government to release more COVID vaccines to states.

A letter signed by Walz and governors from Illinois, Michigan, California, Kansas, Washington, New York, and Wisconsin cites "publicly reported information" that states the government is holding up to 50% of its vaccine supply in reserve.

The letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer General Gustave Perna urges them to release the doses so more people can get vaccinated.

While Walz's press release states the government is holding onto the doses "for reasons unknown," Politico reports that the government is withholding the same amount of doses it has shipped out so people who have already had their first shots can get their second one in the correct timeframe. 

But the letter says that with the U.S. government having reached an agreement with Pfizer and Moderna that will give it an allocation of 400 million doses by the second quarter of 2021, the government should have "the utmost confidence" that the vaccine manufacturing pipeline is robust and that future supplies will arrive.

It was reported Friday that President-elect Joe Biden will reverse the 50% policy when he takes office Jan. 20.

A major reason for their call is the new strains of the virus that have emerged, notably in the U.K., which researchers have suggested is 50% more transmissible than the strains seen up to now.

At this stage, the U.K. strain has not been confirmed in Minnesota, but state health officials believe it is already here. 

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Minnesota has also been experiencing challenges in getting the vaccines distributed. 

As of Thursday, 91,174 people in Minnesota had received their first shots – most of them healthcare workers – but that is out of 396,350 doses the state has thus far been allocated, of which 288,000 will have arrived by the end of the day Thursday.

MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann explained the process of sending out the virus this week, saying the state finds out how many doses it can order from the federal government every Tuesday, but can't place the orders for the doses until Thursday, and the shipment doesn't arrive till the following week.

Per FOX 9, Ehresmann said that when shipments arrive, the vaccine is sent to an immunization site across the state, but due to the timescale of the ordering and transit process, a shipment ordered on a Tuesday may not reach the vaccine site until 10 days later.

"To reiterate, vaccine is not sitting anywhere in Minnesota, it's constantly moving and it takes time for the whole process to happen," she added.

The state has said that all of the vaccines earmarked for the highest priority healthcare workers have been distributed, while work continues to vaccinate long-term care residents. 

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