As Governor Walz Calls for Further Supply from Federal Government, Minnesota Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot Program
Pilot program with limited vaccine doses targets adults 65 years of age and older, prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, and child care workers are eligible to receive shots
January 19, 2021
[ST. PAUL, MN] – Minnesota is launching a COVID-19 vaccine pilot program, partnering with local public health and school districts, Governor Tim Walz announced on Monday. These sites will initially serve adults 65 years of age or older, as well as prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff, and child care workers. The community vaccination pilot program will be the foundation for mass vaccination clinics in Minnesota communities once the federal government increases vaccine supply. The nine pilot sites will launch this week with a small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans.
There is a very limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota, and despite promises from the Trump administration of additional allocations, Minnesota has not yet received an increase in weekly doses. Governor Walz has repeatedly called on the federal government to purchase more vaccine. He sent a letter with other governors last week expressing frustration with the current administration's botched COVID-19 vaccine distribution and urged the federal government to purchase as many doses of the safe and effective vaccine as possible so states can get more shots in arms in the coming weeks. All Minnesotans are encouraged to remain patient as more vaccine arrives in the weeks and months ahead.
"We are building for the future and doing what we can to get more shots to Minnesotans right now," said Governor Tim Walz. "By beginning to serve those age 65 and older, educators and child care workers, we are immunizing for impact. It's a step in the right direction on this long road to recovery. The federal government has been giving mixed messages on vaccine availability and guidance, and we need them to step up and get more vaccine to the state. When they do, we will be ready. The end of this pandemic is closer today than it was yesterday."
Today's announcement expands the priority populations eligible for a vaccine right now. Additional details on Phase 1b are dependent on decisions to be made by the federal government and will be available in the weeks ahead.
Healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff can still receive the vaccine through their workplace, care facility, or local public health. To help ensure equitable distribution to communities that need it most, in addition to these nine pilot sites, the Administration is working strategically with community clinics and other federally qualified heath centers who are well versed on how to serve Minnesota's Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color, as well as the uninsured. Healthcare providers are also encouraged to vaccinate these populations as quickly as is safe. Minnesota remains on pace to offer at least first doses of vaccine to all in this group by the end of January.
"Educators and childcare workers care for the mental and emotional well-being of our children, and we know that childcare workers are disproportionately women of color, who have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. We owe it to them to support their health and safety," said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. "COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. By making them available to our teachers, school personnel, and childcare providers, we will provide peace of mind as they do their vital jobs."
Vaccine-eligible Minnesotans can get a shot as supplies allow through either their healthcare provider or the pilot community vaccination sites. Regardless of location, Minnesotans are required to have an appointment to get a shot.
In consultation with state officials, healthcare providers are developing systems to let their 65-or-older patients know when they can start making appointments for a vaccine. Providers will contact patients with this information – Minnesotans should not contact their providers directly right now.
Eligible Minnesotans will be able to schedule an appointment at one of the nine pilot sites launching around the state. Sites will begin offering vaccines on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. MDH will provide more information and will make appointment scheduling available on mn.gov/vaccine at approximately noon on Tuesday, January 19.
"These new state sites will immediately provide more vaccines to some Minnesotans who are eligible for their shot," said Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. "More importantly, this pilot program will help Minnesota continue to build up a broad and multi-channel vaccine distribution system with our local public health, healthcare, and pharmacy partners for vaccine access once the federal government begins shipping a higher volume of doses. Not every Minnesotan can get the vaccine right now, but we will be ready to give a shot to everyone who needs one once we have more doses on hand."
School districts, charter schools, tribal schools and nonpublic school organizations will work directly with employees to secure an appointment through the state-sponsored pilot sites. Child care programs are randomly selected and will be notified if vaccines are available. Due to limited supplies, the state has recommended that schools prioritize their vaccine allotment, which is based on workforce proportion in their region.
"Beginning to vaccinate educators, including all school staff, as well as our partners in the child care industry through the pilot sites is exciting," said Deputy Education Commissioner Heather Mueller. "While we do not have enough doses for everyone who wants a vaccine to receive one right away, we are building the system and structure so that once we receive those additional doses from the federal government, we can move quickly to support our school staff and bring even more students back into our classrooms."
There are a very small number of doses and appointments available at these pilot sites. Minnesotans should not visit a healthcare provider or pilot site unless they have an appointment.
After Governor Walz and eight other governors sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting that the federal government distribute the millions of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses that are currently being held back by the Trump administration, the administration announced that they will release the available vaccine doses. But according to multiple reports, federal officials backtracked and are now claiming that the reserve has already been exhausted, despite the fact that we have not seen an increase in our allocations and despite Pfizer's recent announcement that they currently have millions of doses of the vaccine on hand and are waiting on addresses from the Trump administration so they can deliver the vaccine to states.
Minnesotans can find more vaccine information on the state's COVID-19 Response website.
STAKEHOLDER TALKING POINTS
• Minnesota is piloting a community COVID-19 vaccine program, partnering with local public health and school districts, to place nine pilot sites across the state. These pilot sites will initially serve adults 65 years of age or older and prekindergarten through grade12 educators, school staff, and child care workers.
• The community vaccination pilot program will be the foundation for mass vaccination clinics in Minnesota communities once the federal government increases vaccine supply. The nine pilot sites will launch this week with a small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans.
• There is a very limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota. Despite federal government promises, Minnesota has not yet received an increase in vaccine doses. We encourage Minnesotans to remain patient as more vaccine arrives in the weeks and months ahead.
• While Minnesota is beginning to serve those age 65 and older, educators and child care workers, we continue to serve healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff in Phase 1a. This pilot program will help ensure that Minnesota has a robust process in place when more vaccine is made available from the federal government.
• Healthcare workers and long-term care resident and staff can still receive the vaccine through their workplace, care facility, or local public health. Minnesota remains on pace to offer at least first doses of vaccine to all in these groups by the end of January.
• Additional details on Phase 1b are dependent on decisions to be made by the federal government and will be available in the weeks ahead.
WHO CAN GET VACCINATED NOW
● The state is beginning to vaccinate new groups of Minnesotans this week, including:
○ Adults 65 years of age or older;
○ Prekindergarten through grade 12 educators and school staff at public school districts, charter schools, tribal schools and nonpublic school organizations;
○ Staff working in licensed and certified child care programs.
○ The state continues to vaccinate the health care workers and assisted-living residents and staff in phase 1a and is on track to having provided at least one shot to all 500,000 Minnesotans in that group before the end of the month.
● Minnesota will provide more details on phase 1b in the coming weeks as the incoming Biden administration provides more guidance to states.
PEOPLE NOT IDENTIFIED IN THIS IMMEDIATE PHASE
● Right now, vaccine demand far outpaces our supply.
● We continue to immunize for impact and opening up supply to adults 65 years of age or older helps us protect the Minnesotans most at risk from serious complications of the virus, while ensuring no doses are wasted.
● Getting the vaccine to our prekindergarten through grade12 educators, school staff, and child care workers will also help ensure our kids can be in school.
● But we know there are Minnesotans who work in front line industries, those with underlying health conditions, and so many others who need access to the vaccine.
● We know it’s hard to be patient and it’s frustrating, but we simply do not have enough vaccine supply right now to reach everyone.
● We will get to you. As we get more vaccine supply, we will vaccinate more people.
PILOT SITES / HOW TO SIGN UP
● Minnesota is launching a pilot program this week to increase vaccination capacity in communities across the state and to prepare for the future when more vaccine is made available from the federal government.
● This pilot program will be the foundation for mass vaccination clinics in communities across the state for when we receive more vaccine supply from the federal government.
● There will be nine pilot sites launched this week with a small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans.
● The pilot sites are located in these nine cities:
○ Brooklyn Center
○ Fergus Falls
○ Mountain Iron
○ Thief River Falls
○ Saint Cloud
○ North Mankato
MINNESOTANS AGE 65 AND OLDER
o Appointments will be made by phone or on the website only.
o Beginning on Tuesday, January 19 at noon, Minnesotans age 65 and older can schedule an appointment online at mn.gov/vaccine or by phone 612-426-7230 or 833-431-2053.
o You MUST have an appointment.
o No walk-ins will be accepted, and anyone with the intention of walking in will be asked to leave and escorted out by security.
o No-shows will be filled from the waitlist only – not from people who just show up at a site.
o You can put yourself on the waitlist either through the call center or online – there is a separate waitlist for each pilot site.
o Making appointments for the second dose varies on which system the site uses. You will either sign up for your second dose when you make your appointment for your first dose, or you’ll make your second dose appointment during your first appointment.
EDUCATORS, SCHOOL STAFF, CHILD CARE WORKERS
o The Governor has prioritized frontline education and child care workers that our health care system depends on to get kids back in school.
o Prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff and child care workers will work directly with their program or school to sign up for a vaccine appointment.
o Due to the very limited supply of vaccine, appointments are not open to all workers in these sectors in the pilot program. The limited vaccine doses have been allocated to regions associated with schools and based on a percentage of the workforce in child care and education.
o School districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic school associations will select who participates in the pilot.
o Child care programs will be randomly selected and notified to secure an appointment through the state-sponsored pilot sites.
FEDERALLY QUALIFIED HEALTH CENTERS
• From the beginning of the COVID-19 response we have prioritized equity, because we know that the health disparities that existed prior to the pandemic have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
• Continuing to center equity in Minnesota’s vaccine roll-out remains a top priority, though the state has received and extremely limited supply of the vaccine we are allocated from the federal government, which creates challenges.
• Our planning includes provisions designed to ensure that vaccines are available in an equitable manner for those experiencing health disparities, especially Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color.
• To help ensure equitable distribution to communities that need it most in addition to these 9 pilot sites, we are working strategically with community clinics and other federally qualified heath centers who are well versed on how to serve Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color, as well as the uninsured.
• We do know that people 65 and older are at higher risk for severe outcomes or severe illness from COVID-19, so getting the vaccine out to those 65 and older is in line with our goal of immunizing for impact to protect those who have the highest risk of serve complication from the virus.
• And we know that the health disparities we see among BIPOC communities are also evident in the 65+ category.
• Therefore, as part of this phase, we are working closely with trusted community hubs, aiming to have staff who speak languages other than English and interpreting services, and other efforts to ensure that equity remains at the center.
• But we need more vaccine – and faster – to come from the federal government so that we can reach all Minnesotans who need protection from the virus.
PROVIDER ROLE IN VACCINATIONS
● Minnesota’s physicians and health care systems are eager to help vaccinate all eligible Minnesotans against COVID-19.
● Your provider will let you know when they have a vaccine available for eligible patients. While more people are eligible to receive the vaccine now, the supply remains very limited.
● Providers will let patients know when they can start making appointments for a vaccine and the Minnesota Department of Health will keep the public updated on vaccine supply and priority populations. Because of limited supply, you do not need to contact your provider at this time.
● Most community vaccinators, such as primary care clinics, urgent care clinics, and pharmacies, do not yet have vaccine for broad public use.
● If you don’t have a regular health care provider, you may be able to schedule an appointment through one of the state sites, though limited supplies mean there will be more demand for vaccine than there are available doses.
● Please be patient. More opportunities for vaccination will be coming as the state receives more vaccine.
● In the meantime, please continue to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors by wearing a mask, washing your hands, maintaining social distance, and staying home when you feel sick.