ST. PAUL — Seventy percent of metro area residents older than 16 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Minnesota health officials said Wednesday, June 2.

That puts the Twin Cities ahead of the state as a whole in the race to provide first-round doses to teens and adults and ahead of Greater Minnesota. By comparison, officials said Wednesday, approximately 57% of outstate residents in that age range have been partially vaccinated.

With 64.7% of all residents ages 16 and up having had their first dose, according to the latest state Department of Health statistics, Minnesota is still on track to reach its statewide goal of 70% coverage for that population segment by July. Gov. Tim Walz at first tied that 70% statewide benchmark to the end of the Minnesota mask mandate, but rescinded it early when federal health authorities issued new mask guidance in May.

Across the board, the slowly growing number of vaccinations is coinciding with a decline in new COVID-19 infections, a state health department official said.

"Just remember that if you're not vaccinated, you're still at risk," Kris Ehresmann told reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon.

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State-sponsored mobile vaccination clinics continue to bring doses straight to neighborhoods that need them.

So far, surveys don't bear out the idea of rural Minnesotans being skeptical of the vaccine, according to Health Department Vaccine Equity Director Dr. Nathan Chomilo.

"There have been national surveys of vaccine hesitancy and attitudes around vaccination for COVID-19 specifically," Chomilo said. And while they suggest Minnesotans are more accepting of the vaccine than the average American, "we did see that counties in the seven-county metro area had relatively more hesitancy."

According to Chomilo, that means efforts to make the vaccine more accessible need to be sustained.

Minnesota counties home to cities smaller than Minneapolis and St. Paul, meanwhile, have higher rates of vaccination in the outstate compared to more rural ones. Olmsted County, home of Rochester, has provided 78% of residents older than 16 with at least one dose of vaccine, or roughly 94,600 people.

In St. Louis County, where Duluth is located, first-round vaccination rates measure 64.2% for residents ages 16 and up.

In an effort to close vaccine gaps, Minnesota has started offering incentives for the newly vaccinated ranging from free state park admission to free fishing licenses. The incentives program launched only last week, however, making it too soon to assess their impact on vaccination rates.