The administration of Gov. Tim Walz plans to deploy mobile vaccination units statewide throughout the summer, aimed at increasing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The efforts are focused on prioritizing underserved and vulnerable populations by going directly to the communities, the administration said. Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows that Minnesotans living in an area with a high ‘Social Vulnerability Index’ score are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and that vaccination rates tend to lag behind the rest of the state.
Staffed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield volunteers and in partnership with Metro Transit, two mobile units will deploy this week, increasing to six buses by summer. The units will be active Monday through Thursday, and each can vaccinate 150 people per day.
“We recognize the historical discrepancies and inequities in health care delivery and we’re making every effort to engage with communities and partners to expand access to vaccines,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a release.
MDH is working with community organizations to raise awareness and help people book appointments before the bus comes. People can request a vaccine unit come to their area via MDH.
Some of the mobile units’ focus communities include urban Native Americans, people with disabilities, people of color, people experiencing homelessness and people without access to a vehicle. The units may also visit large employers like factories, food processing plants and sites for seasonal and migrant workers.
More than 2.3 million Minnesotans have received at least one dose of vaccine and 1.6 million are fully vaccinated. As of April 22, there have been 560,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota and 7,044 people have died.
All residents 16 and older are eligible for the vaccine. Minnesotans are still encouraged to sign up for the Vaccine Connector to be notified of available appointments.