Vaccine pilot program targets those ages 65+, K-12 teachers, child care workers

As of Jan. 15, 232,952 vaccines have been administered out of the 407,575 distributed to the state. 

Soldiers from Company B, 1-171st General Support Aviation Battalion, based in St. Cloud, received the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month in preparation for an upcoming overseas deployment. (MN National Guard/Twitter)

(The Center Square) – Minnesota is launching a COVID-19 vaccine pilot program this week, but the number of vaccines available is extremely limited.

Nine appointment-only sites across the state will start offering vaccines on Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz said in a news release.

These sites will initially serve adults 65 years of age or older and pre-K through grade-12 educators, school staff, and child care workers.

The community vaccination pilot program aims to build the infrastructure for mass vaccination clinics once the state receives more vaccines.

“We are building for the future and doing what we can to get more shots to Minnesotans right now,” Walz said in a statement.

“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 vaccines to the state. When they do, we will be ready. The end of this pandemic is closer today than it was yesterday.”

Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff can still receive the vaccine through their workplace or local public health facility.

Officials say Minnesota remains on pace to offer at least the first doses of the vaccine to all in this group by the end of January. Vaccine-eligible Minnesotans can get a shot as supplies allow through their health care provider or the pilot community vaccination sites.

Health care providers are developing systems to let their 65+ patients know when to make appointments for a vaccine.

Eligible Minnesotans will be able to schedule an appointment at one of the nine pilot sites that open this week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“These new state sites will immediately provide more vaccines to some Minnesotans who are eligible for their shot,” Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement.

“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.”

MDH will make appointment scheduling available at noon Tuesday.

School districts, tribal schools, and nonpublic school organizations will work directly with employees to schedule appointments through the pilot sites.

Child care programs are randomly selected to receive vaccines depending on how many are available.

Officials said a “very small number of doses” and appointments are available at these pilot sites.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been marred by confusion. As of Jan. 15, 232,952 vaccines have been administered out of the 407,575 distributed to the state.

More than 140,000 doses have been administered in the last two weeks.

Minnesota has only been receiving roughly 65,000 doses a week from the federal government, which is a lower amount than promised.