Minnesota: Get ready to roll up your sleeve, vaccine on its way
"This day is real," Gov. Tim Walz says of impending roll-out of first doses slated for state
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Minnesota officials on Tuesday, Dec. 8, announced the outline of a long-awaited vaccine distribution plan for the state, a schedule expected to kick into gear should the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine receive FDA approval as expected on Thursday, Dec. 10.
With a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sign-off expected for Friday, Dec. 11, and shipments to begin immediately thereafter, the Minnesota Department of Health expects the first shots will be given as early as the end of next week.
A second, similar vaccine by Moderna is expected to receive approval Thursday, Dec. 17, potentially putting that drug into the state by Christmas week.
Because the Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage while the Modern vaccine does not, it is anticipated that the metro area could get the former and Greater Minnesota the latter. The vaccines are believed to have similarly high rates of effectiveness.
Minnesota will follow federal guidance in providing the earliest doses to front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care with vulnerabilities, with the objective of maximizing medical impact.
Following those initial recipients, vaccines will be prioritized for essential workers, then adults with underlying medical conditions and those older than 65. People who have already had COVID-19 will still be recommended to get the vaccine.
"This is a day we've been waiting for," Gov. Tim Walz said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. "This day is real. Yesterday in the United Kingdom we saw it go in the arm of a woman there. She is the first person outside of the testing phase to receive it. It is happening and here in Minnesota we are ready for it."
"There's a lot of work to be done," Walz said. "This is going to take time and patience ... but Minnesota's plan is solid. We've been working on this for months. We were the template for what they are doing nationally."
"It's been a long year, and there hasn't been a lot of good news," said state commissioner of health Jan Malcolm. "This is a good day, and we're very excited to share with you how this is going to work in Minnesota."
The state will follow an already-rehearsed, end-to-end chain of possession pathway for the state's shipments from Pfizer storage locations, into dry-ice containers via air and overland shipping direct to state hospitals, with accessory supplies arriving within 30 minutes. "That system worked," Walz said of the test run already conducted in state that ensured speed and cold-chain shipment.
The vaccines will go directly from manufacturers to providers, initially to locations that are private worksites. They will later be shipped to 25 key hospitals designated as hubs, and from there to 118 smaller clinics to canvas the state geographically.
"There will never be a time when there is vaccine sitting in a warehouse, or at the state health department," said state director of infectious disease Kris Ehresmann.
Minnesota is tentatively scheduled to receive 183,400 doses within the first month, allocated to the state on a per-capita basis, although those numbers are highly fluid and could increase.
The vaccines will be injected in two doses — 21 days apart for the Pfizer vaccine, 28 days apart for the Moderna vaccine — with the recipient becoming protected at a point six weeks following the first dose.
The vaccine is not mandatory, but officials say they want it available for every Minnesotan who wants to get it, adding that their goal is a high level of comfort within the population that the vaccine is safe and the distribution is equitable, transparent, and "designed to get the biggest bang for the buck."
"While the system has been sped up," Walz said, "no corners were cut in terms of safety to get this."
State and local officials weigh in
Walz held a second news conference Tuesday with a bipartisan group of legislators, and then a media call with mayors from the four corners of the state: Duluth Mayor Emily Larson; Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian; Rochester Mayor Kim Norton; and Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd.
"The timing to me could not be better," Larson said. "We are exhausted by the pandemic, and people are nervous and scared. We still have work to do before we get to mass immunity. Just knowing it's out there and that there is a plan to get it to people geographically, knowing there are priority groups and issues of disparity being factored in, gives me confidence that my community can do the hard things we need to be doing."
"We have been engaged from day one," said Baustian. "The mask-wearing has been a challenge with neighboring states that don't believe in the science. We have been fortunate enough to work with businesses to get them to understand and I think we have been successful to a point that what's really going to make that pressure go down is when vaccines are available."
"I will definitely get vaccinated when my time comes," he added.
Rochester Mayor Norton cited the abundance of health care workers in her community, saying they "are really hit personally by this," and that "we know people want to get back to normal ... the news today is starting us on that path.
"I hope it will strengthen our resolve to get us through the next several months of following the protocols in place. People are tired of hearing that, but I think this is going to give people that hope that we just have to get to where we can get in line for that shot," she said.
"With the holiday season around us, emotions are running high," said Moorhead Mayor Judd. "I know we carry a lot of expectations from our families and friends. I know I speak for all the mayors when I ask everyone to extend grace to one another as we get through the process. where vaccines are going to be distributed ... so that we can all get to the finish line together."
"Even with this vaccine we have got to slow this thing down," Walz said. "The fire is so big it's hard to put it out. We can accelerate how fast we get out of this not with vaccines but our behaviors."
It could be a number of months for the general public to receive a dose.
Walz said on Tuesday that falling hospitalization rates, deaths and case positivity rates will determine the reopening of crowd-gathering businesses and activities now affected, as opposed to vaccination rates.
The state reported an additional 3,080 cases Tuesday, and 22 deaths.
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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website .