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Minnesota to expand into next wave of COVID-19 vaccinations, shots for all could start in April

The state bumped up eligibility to include 1.8 million more Minnesotans after it reached a goal of vaccinating 70% of those 65 and older.

Gov. Tim Walz (bottom right) welcomes people lining up for their COVID-19 vaccination as he toured the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center mass COVID-19 vaccination center in Eagan, Minn., on Friday, March 5, 2021. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — Another 1.8 million Minnesotans are set to become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, the state announced Tuesday, March 9, with front-line workers and those with preexisting conditions set to be next in line for a shot.

Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday morning said the state had reached a goal of vaccinating 70% of adults 65 and older and that milestone kickstarted the next two rounds of vaccinations. With more doses expected to come into the state in coming weeks, the governor said Minnesota would expand eligibility to additional age groups and people working in certain professions, as well as to those with more significant health risks.

The new groups join health care workers, seniors, school workers and child care providers in their eligibility for a vaccine. Those populations will continue to be vaccinated as the new tiers come forward for access, Walz said. And those with the highest risk of developing severe complications if they contract COVID-19 will be prioritized for the vaccinations.

"If you're sitting out there today listening to or reading this and you're 71 and you're still waiting, you are still our priority," Walz told reporters. "What we're doing now is just making sure that that highway just expanded a couple more lanes, that it's going at full speed, that Minnesota's still within the top four or five in the nation at getting this out."

The next tier of Minnesotans to get the shot would include those with health conditions that can spur severe complications from COVID-19 including sickle cell disease, cancer and chronic lung disease, those with rare medical conditions or disabilities, and food processing workers would be next in line to receive the vaccination, he said. Those groups could see vaccines reaching their arms in the next two weeks, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.



And adults 45 and older with one or more underlying medical conditions, Minnesotans 16 and older with two or more health conditions, those 50 and older living in multi-generational housing and agricultural workers, airport staff, child care workers, correctional facility workers, first responders, restaurant workers and others were set to become eligible starting Wednesday, March 10.
Multi-generational households would include grandparents who reside with their children and grandchildren, state officials said.

The second category of Minnesotans could see full vaccination within four to six weeks unless the distribution of doses from the federal government changes from current rates, Malcolm said. Assuming that timetable holds, all other Minnesota adults could become eligible for a vaccine late next month, she said.

“By the time we’re through with that next larger group, the next announcement would be for pretty much everyone else,” Malcolm said.

Walz urged Minnesotans to sign up for the Minnesota Vaccine Connector to be alerted when openings for a shot became available near them and suggested that they reach out to their physicians or employers as well about potential vaccination openings. Supply of new doses was set to expand around the state, Malcolm said, and public health officials were aiming to increase worksite opportunities to administer the vaccinations and options for those with limited options for transportation.

The news of expanded access to the vaccinations again prompted a call for Walz to ease restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. Walz said the state would have guidance within days about whether the Minnesota Twins could start their season with fans in the stands. And additional guidance about COVID-19 mitigation efforts would depend on the state's rate of vaccination as well as reported variants of the disease, he said.

Republican lawmakers said the state's declining COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths paired with increasing vaccination numbers signaled that Minnesota should start dropping restrictions and allow more workers to return to work in-person and businesses to open at a higher capacity. House Republicans have proposed a plan to fully reopen businesses by May 1.

"Now is the time to start opening and easing restrictions on our businesses as other states are already doing," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told reporters. "If we're going to react to a spike, we also need to react too when our numbers are plummeting."


Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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