500,000 Minnesotans could be vaccinated by the end of January, official says

    Gina Harper measures out the exact amount of the COVID-19 vaccine for a dose before it is administered to the first patients in Colorado at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital on Dec. 14, 2020, in Fort Collins. The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Colorado to front-line health care workers in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post, Pool.

    Minnesota is on track to vaccinate roughly 500,000 people and complete its first phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution by the end of January, Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist Kris Ehresmann said Friday.

    So far, more than 104,000 Minnesotans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine during phase 1a, which aims to vaccinate all health care workers and long-term care residents.

    During the next phase of distribution, 1.1 million frontline essential workers and adults over 75 will be vaccinated, Ehresmann said during a panel hosted by the University of Minnesota. The process will likely take months, but could be shortened by the plan announced Friday by President-elect Joe Biden to quickly release more vaccine doses to states.

    The federal government has allocated between 60,000 and 65,000 vaccine doses to Minnesota per week, and at that rate, the state won’t finish phase 1b until June, Ehresmann said. The Minnesota Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group is working to establish priority groups within phase 1b based on COVID-19 risk.

    In phase 1c, other essential workers, adults ages 65-74 and people under 64 with high-risk medical conditions will be vaccinated. The vaccine will be available for the general public after that.

    Vaccine doses are distributed statewide to 25 large hospitals and health facilities, which send some doses to 118 smaller facilities. Ehresmann said the state has received pushback from residents and health systems over its distribution plan.

    “Overall, our attempt is at equitable distribution, but certainly it’s imperfect in practice,” she said. “We’re doing our best to make sure that as we’re pushing out thousands of doses a week, that it is being utilized in the best way possible. But obviously, we don’t have complete control on how that happens.”

    Rilyn Eischens
    Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.