Community vaccination clinics began administering the coronavirus vaccine to a broader group of Minnesotans this week under a pilot program announced by state officials on Monday.
The clinics opened on an appointment-only basis to the roughly 6,000 Minnesotans who were able to secure an appointment through the state's new appointment website and phone line, which went live Tuesday.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said an extremely limited number of residents in the newly-eligible categories will be vaccinated under the pilot program as demand far outweighs supply being shipped from the federal government.
The program launched this week allowed Minnesotans aged 65 and older, and select educators and child care workers, to try and schedule an appointment.
Of this week's 6,000 appointments, half were reserved for those 65-plus and the other half were set aside for the eligible workers. Appointment reservations include both a first and second dose appointment.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the state's appointment website is set to refresh to make the next week's round of appointments available.
"We desperately need more doses from the federal government, and frankly (we) are leaving no stone unturned in trying to do that," Malcolm said.
Minnesota currently receives 60,000 vaccine doses per week, according to state officials.
Without an increase in the current supply rate, state health officials estimate it would take approximately four and half months to vaccine the Minnesotans in the three newly-eligible categories.
HealthPartners Chief Executive Officer Andrea Walsh said Minnesota's healthcare infrastructure is ultimately well-prepared for mass vaccination efforts, and the pace of the vaccine roll-out depends on the federal government.
HealthPartners could vaccinate as many Minnesotans in one day as the federal shipments currently allows the state to vaccinate in one week, Walsh told reporters Monday.
The pilot program announced Monday will serve as a test-run for mass vaccination clinics, but does not mark the state's formal shift into vaccinating residents in the "1B" priority category.
"We're not sitting still," Malcolm said. "We are moving in the direction that we know the next wave of vaccinations will go."
The vaccine clinics opened in Andover, Brooklyn Center, Fergus Falls, Mountain Iron, Thief River Falls, St. Cloud, North Mankato, Rochester and Marshall, but their exact locations are only being given to appointment holders.
State health officials have repeatedly asked Minnesotans to be patient while the state waits for more doses, and say no walk-ins will be accepted.
According to district sources, here's how many vaccines the first round of the state's pilot program offered to local districts:
- Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan: 57
- Burnsville-Eagan-Savage: 20
- Eastern Carver County: 21
- Prior Lake-Savage: 18
- Shakopee: 18
- Jordan: 6
Aaron Tinklenberg, communications director with the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District, said the district prioritized employees aged 75-plus who are working in-person and staff providing childcare in the district's birth-to-five program when deciding who to offer the appointments to.
The intent was to capture some of the employees who are the highest risk for severe illness, and those who cannot maintain social distancing, he said.
Over 200,000 vaccinated statewide
As of Jan. 17, the state health department reports 200,840 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 38,521 have completed the two-dose series.
In Scott County, the state reports 3,971 residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 803 residents have completed the series. In Carver County, the state reports 2,920 residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 700 residents have completed the series.
Percent of metro population vaccinated by county as of Jan. 17:
- Scott County: 2.8% (0.6% with completed series)
- Dakota County: 2.8% (0.6%)
- Carver County: 2.9% (0.7%)
- Hennepin County: 3.3% (0.7%)
- Ramsey County: 3.4% (0.7%)
- Anoka County: 2.5% (0.5%)
- Washington County: 3.5% (0.7%)
Mahnomen County in northwest Minnesota reports the highest rate of vaccination with 17% of the population having received at least one dose as of Jan. 17.
Olmsted County, where Mayo Clinic is located, reported the second highest vaccination rate with 12% of the population having received at least one dose as of Jan. 17.
State health officials say the state's vaccination data might not reflect Minnesotans who were vaccinated by an entity receiving doses directly from the federal government, such as Veterans Affairs.