Minnesota is closing in on a goal of vaccinating 80% of senior citizens, having provided at least first doses as of Saturday to 1,371,513 people overall and 670,379 people 65 and older.
Gov. Tim Walz earlier this month said an 80% rate in senior citizens at this stage of Minnesota's vaccination campaign would be remarkable, given that many snowbirds haven't returned to the state. Some may have been vaccinated in other states, but don't count in Minnesota's tally. The current state total represented 78% of Minnesota seniors.
"I hope that this need and desire to get it continues at a high rate," said Walz, who commended the patience and diligence of Minnesotans to seek vaccination opportunities this winter.
Seniors were prioritized for vaccine, because they have suffered 89% of Minnesota's 6,777 COVID-19 deaths. The total includes 6 deaths reported Saturday. The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 1,400 more infections with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, bringing the known case count to 504,273.
Minnesota over the past week has seen a slight increase in infection numbers, the positivity rate of diagnostic testing, and hospitalizations. Since the start of the pandemic, 26,641 Minnesotans have been admitted to U.S. hospitals due to COVID-19.
State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann on Friday said more-infectious variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been linked to clusters of cases in the southwest metro, Mankato, and the East Range in northern Minnesota.
Continued vaccination could slow growth of these variants — and the development of new ones — but health officials urged continued mask-wearing and social distancing to reduce chances for viral transmission.
Health care workers, educators, seniors and long-term care residents are prioritized for vaccine along with non-elderly adults with certain complicating health conditions or key high-risk occupations. That comprises 3.5 million Minnesotans, with the rest expected to gain vaccine access later this spring or early summer.
Walz, 56, has not been vaccinated and remains in quarantine until March 25 after exposure during a press event to a staff member who tested positive.
Minnesota's total of vaccine recipients include 816,289 people who have completed the series either by receiving both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna versions, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson version. People are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their final shots — the time delay needed for the vaccine to become sufficiently protective.
Federal and state guidance has relaxed COVID-19 restrictions on fully vaccinated people, who can visit one another indoors without the need for masks or social distancing. They also can visit with unvaccinated people at low risk of severe COVID-19. Fully vaccinated residents of long-term care facilities also can have close contact with visitors, and do not need to quarantine upon return from outings in public.
Vaccine access continues to broaden, with the state adding another permanent vaccination site in St. Cloud and distributing more doses to pharmacies and clinics across Minnesota.
The state has now reached 2,143,348 total doses administered. Out of that total supply, providers have wasted 396 doses, according to the most recent figures. That total includes 59 doses wasted due to broken vials or syringes, and 57 that were in open vials but were never administered.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744