Walmart pharmacies announced walk-in COVID-19 vaccine appointments in 80 Minnesota locations on Tuesday amid signs of weakening demand for the shots.

Minnesota on Tuesday neared a threshold of 60% of eligible people 16 and older receiving vaccine — with nearly 2.6 million people receiving at least a first shot and nearly 2 million completing the one- or two-dose series. However, the state's progress toward its 80% vaccination goal has slowed.

The number of weekly doses administered has fallen in Minnesota from 405,870 in the seven-day period starting April 4 to 276,234 in the seven-day period starting April 25. Some of that decline was because of a two-week pause in the administration of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to review rare blood clots that occurred in a handful of young female recipients. However, the single-dose J&J vaccine makes up only 4.5% of total doses administered in Minnesota.

Public health officials are hoping that expanded access and mobile vaccination clinics will target eligible Minnesotans who have been reluctant or have struggled to make time for appointments because of work schedules. A federally funded vaccination site on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds also started offering some walk-in access for shots last week.

Edina Public Schools is offering Pfizer vaccine to its high school students Thursday and Friday as part of a broader state effort to expand immunization of a younger population that has seen an increase in viral spread over the past two months.

Pfizer vaccine is available to 16- and 17-year-olds while the age cutoff for the Moderna and J&J versions is 18. State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said she expects federal emergency authorization in mid-May to lower the age cutoff to 12 for the Pfizer vaccine.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday reported 11 more COVID-19 deaths and 998 more infections with the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease. Overall, the state in the pandemic has reported 7,174 deaths and 581,335 diagnosed infections.

Vaccination progress could be reflected in some of the pandemic numbers in Minnesota. Only one of the 11 deaths reported Tuesday involved long-term care facilities — which were targeted earlier this year for the first, limited quantities of vaccine.

The rate of COVID-19 deaths has increased slightly in recent weeks, but not at the same rate as hospitalizations and infections in the current third wave of pandemic activity in Minnesota. Health officials believe that it's because of the vaccination of more than 86% of senior citizens — a vulnerable group that has suffered 89% of Minnesota's COVID-19 deaths.

Viral activity in the third COVID-19 wave appears to have peaked in Minnesota. The positivity rate of COVID-19 diagnostic testing — a key barometer for the level of viral transmission in the state — has declined from 7.5% on April 8 to 5.9%.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744