ST. PAUL — Enough doses of the vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been shipped to Minnesota's skilled nursing care facilities to provide all of their patients with the first of two injections needed for immunity, state health officials said Friday, Jan. 22.
Residents receiving medical treatment and undergoing rehabilitation at those facilities are among the very first that the Minnesota Department of Health has sought to inoculate in the first phase, called phase 1a, of the state vaccine rollout. With them having been provided their initial doses of the vaccine, department Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Friday, other types of long-term care facilities were able to begin administering the vaccine this week.
"We are making good progress in what was, and rightly so, our first priority vaccines as the limited supply becomes available," Malcolm told reporters Friday.
Health officials announced that progress the same week that more Minnesotans were granted access to the vaccine. Nine new vaccination sites across the state opened Thursday, Jan. 21, where older residents, teachers and child care workers can go by appointment in what officials say is a pilot program for future community vaccination efforts.
Before eligibility criteria were expanded this week, only health care workers and long-term care facility residents had been able to receive the vaccine. But a limited supply of the vaccine itself makes it unlikely that greater numbers of the newly eligible will actually receive it any time soon.
President Joe Biden this week directed federal government agencies to invoke the U.S. Defense Production Act, which lets them compel private businesses to prioritize their respective contracts, in part to ramp up the production of the materials needed for the vaccine. The newly sworn in president has said he wants 100 million doses of the vaccine administered in 100 days.
As of Friday, approximately 49,600 people in Minnesota have received the requisite two doses of the vaccine. Another 214,000 have been given at least one dose.
Firm federal guidance on how to structure the next major phase of the vaccine rollout, meanwhile, is still forthcoming.
According to Malcolm, the number of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota's nursing home are manageable for the moment. Citing federal data, the health commissioner said Minnesota ranks number of cases per long-term care facility residents are the 46th lowest in the nation, while per capita deaths in nursing homes are the 41st lowest.
"It’s a testament to the hard work of the staff in these facilities, and the assistance that we’ve been trying to provide," she said.
Health officials also on Friday reported an additional 1,525 cases of COVID-19. Another 21 people in Minnesota died of the disease, according to the new data.
Twelve of the newly reported deaths occurred outside the Twin Cities area. So far, COVID-19 has resulted in the deaths of 6,032 people in Minnesota since the coronavirus pandemic.
Since Monday, Jan. 18, the health department reported 230 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, 33 of which were made to intensive care units.
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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.