Minnesotans 65 and older “raced” to get their poke in the arm and protect themselves against the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The state reached its goal of 80% of seniors vaccinated against the pandemic “faster than I think anyone could have anticipated,” Gov. Tim Walz said Friday in a call with media members, including with the News Tribune Opinion page.
That encouraging, we’re-almost-there, there-is-hope report was accompanied by even more good news. The state also announced that, with seniors and others more at risk now largely inoculated, the bulk of Minnesotans — everyone over age 16 — is now eligible, too, to get their shots, starting on Tuesday.
“It’s time for all Minnesotans to get in line,” Walz said in a statement. “Minnesotans have done a remarkable job helping our most vulnerable get vaccinated and waiting their turn.”
The wait is almost over. The federal government has promised an increased supply of doses here by April. Already, approximately 330,000 shots per week are being administered in the state at clinics, pharmacies, and state-sponsored vaccination sites. That’s expected to ramp up to about 425,000 this week, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on the call; the state has a capacity to do 500,000 shots weekly. Large employers and others also are lining up to do their part by sponsoring vaccination events, similar to annual flu clinics.
Vaccinating against the deadly and contagious COVID-19 is going as well in Minnesota as in any state. Last week, we ranked first in the nation for the percentage of doses administered. Minnesota’s 80% of seniors vaccinated also outperforms other states, Walz and Malcolm said.
Of course, there are those skeptical or lacking in trust.
“There’s reasons,” Walz acknowledged. “Especially in communities of color … because of historical trauma around vaccines. What we’re doing and what you can expect to see now … (is) a campaign out there to help educate people.”
To its credit, late last week, Black members of the National Academy of Medicine, the nation’s premier health science organization, urged Black Americans in a video to get vaccinated ASAP. Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Pew Research data shows that 37% of Black Americans won’t get the vaccine because of potential side effects and its speedy development — and because of mistakes the medical community has made in the past.
“Trust in government does not come easily for our community,” an academy member says in the video.
But, “It is critical that the Black community … not wait,” said Dr. Thomas A. LaVeist of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
None of us should wait. Stomping out and getting past this pandemic depends on everyone, just as it has from the very beginning with the pleas to wear virus-blocking face masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands, and not touch our faces — all of which remain important and simple steps that everyone can take.
Now added to the list: for everyone to be vaccinated. It’s safe and effective. It's our best hope. Our medical professionals and health experts, from local doctors' offices to the CDC in Atlanta, can be trusted on that. They've earned the trust. They have no reason to mislead.
With enough shots administered, Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. and world can get past this. We can get back to something resembling normalcy, to being able to be with each other again, and to an economy that was roaring a year ago and can again.
Our light of hope can be reached by rejecting unfounded fears that are being spread about the vaccine. It can be reached by all of us continuing to do our part.
Put simply and bluntly: Roll up your sleeve and take your shot. For yourself. For everyone you care about. For a return to health and the normalcy we all crave. Minnesotans, it’s your turn.
HOW DO I GET MY SHOT?
Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Friday urged Minnesotans to sign up for the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector (vaccineconnector.mn.gov) to get updates on vaccine opportunities and to be entered into the selection process for a vaccination.
Minnesotans also can contact their health care provider, local pharmacy, or use the Vaccine Locator Map (mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/find-vaccine/locations/index.jsp) to search for vaccine providers, said Walz and Malcolm.