COVID-19 vaccinations are up among Minnesota teens since the state launched a $200 incentive program.
When the program began Oct. 18, 2,200 Minnesotans ages 12-17 got their first vaccine dose compared with 1,600 the week before, an increase of 38%.
The incentive program closes on Nov. 30, but those wanting the $200 Visa gift card should get their first dose by Nov. 9 in order to complete the two doses needed to qualify.
Younger Minnesotans have the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with 53% fully vaccinated in the 12-15 age group and 59% of 16- and 17-year-olds. Among all ages, 70.2% of vaccine-eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
Next week could see the start of shots for the 5-11 age group if federal regulatory officials give final approval to a lower-dose Pfizer vaccine. The FDA gave its stamp of approval Friday, and next week the vaccine will be reviewed by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel and then the CDC director will make the expected final approval.
The state is holding drawings for five $100,000 scholarships that can be used at any public or private higher education institution in Minnesota. Anyone 12-17 who completes the vaccine series in 2021 before the drawing deadlines — Nov. 15, 22 and 29, and Dec. 6 and 13 — is eligible.
"Every shot in the arm helps us fight COVID-19, and we're excited to reward every 12- to 17-year-old who joins us in that fight," Gov. Tim Walz said. "There are only 12 days left to get your first dose and be eligible for that $200 in your pocket, and every fully vaccinated 12- to 17-year-old can register for their [chance] at $100,000 for college."
Minnesota health officials on Friday announced another 3,348 new COVID-19 cases and 16 additional deaths. So far the pandemic has led to 787,550 confirmed infections and 8,669 fatalities.
The Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday that it would publish numbers of how many state residents were reinfected with the coronavirus — defined as an illness that appears at least 90 days after the first infection was diagnosed through a test. The data are expected to be released beginning next week.
A total of 915 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 complications, including 212 in intensive care. Those patient loads have eased since earlier in the month, but hospitals report that they are still busy because of COVID-19 and other diseases. Of the state's 1,158 intensive care beds, 96% were occupied on Thursday.
The state's public health indicators continue to show improvements in the recent surge, with a 7.1% testing positivity rate, down from a recent high of 8.4%, and 38.8 new cases per 100,000 residents, a decline from 52.7.
Even with the addition of booster shots, the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered each week has declined from the end of September, when about 115,000 shots were given, to just under 95,000 last week.
Vaccine pop-up events continue, with the state sponsoring a vaccination clinic outside U.S. Bank Stadium during Sunday night's Vikings football game.
Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192