While Minnesota has surpassed one million total COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, senior citizens account for only 28% of those fully vaccinated, according to a Minnesota senator.
Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, called out the hypocrisy of Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health, who both claim they are prioritizing seniors, during a Wednesday Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Committee hearing.
“Minnesotans aged 65 and older continue to make up the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths, and it’s nothing short of a tragedy,” Housley said in a press release.
Seniors make up 89% of all COVID deaths but only account for 41% of those receiving either their first or second dose of the vaccine. The 28% figure represents seniors who have completed the vaccine series.
As of Feb. 14, only 5.4% of Minnesota’s senior population had received both doses, Housley said.
“I have repeatedly asked MDH and Gov. Walz to answer for this lack of transparency, only to receive no concrete answers,” she continued.
Earlier this month, Housley held a press conference to announce her “seniors first” vaccination plan, which calls for more vaccine sites at community pharmacies that are ready to store and administer vaccines.
At the conference, Housley said the governor “has shown that he doesn’t have a plan that prioritizes our seniors.”
“There has been confusion, disorganization, and reports of extra doses going to non-priority groups,” she added.
Now, the State Vaccine Advisory Group, MDH, and Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm are discussing including younger workers and prisoners in phase 1(b) of the vaccine rollout, according to Housley.
Additionally, the Walz administration has placed an emphasis on vaccinating teachers, noting in a Wednesday press release that 25 percent of public-school teachers have been vaccinated. The state also reserved another 18,000 doses of the vaccine exclusively for teachers in this week’s allocation.
“The constant changes to vaccine distribution strategies without a primary focus on getting the most vulnerable among us the information they need to protect themselves is a strategy for failure,” she said.
Housley also pointed to the odd fact that seniors are required to “answer invasive questions” about gender identity and sexual orientation in order to sign up and receive access to the vaccine.
Housley declared that Walz and the MDH need to finally do what they’ve been claiming to do all along.
She said the state needs to “give the seniors priority and make vaccines available to members of the 65-plus population that want to be vaccinated, then we can move on.”
“These numbers are embarrassing for a governor that claims to be prioritizing seniors,” she added.