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COVID Vaccine Rollouts Accelerate in Minnesota

Danny Reinan, news editor
Army spc. Angel Laureano holding a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, taken by Lisa Ferdinando of the Department of Defense on December 14, 2020.

Minnesotans who are still waiting on their COVID-19 vaccines can look forward to an uptick in vaccine rollouts statewide. This increase in vaccine distribution comes as a result of the state moving forward into Phase 1b tiers two and three of vaccine distribution, which focus on vaccinating Minnesotans with underlying health conditions and essential frontline workers who have not yet been vaccinated. These new tiers have made around 1.8 million more Minnesotans eligible to receive the vaccine as of this Wednesday.

“We continue to ramp those up so that we don’t have folks sitting on vaccines,” Governor Tim Walz said in a press conference aired on CBS Minnesota. “The next time I’m here to announce the next lane [of people eligible] that’s in, that’s basically the rest of Minnesota. That’s how close we are.”

This increase in distribution was ahead of the schedule that had originally been laid out by the state. State officials were hoping to vaccinate 70% of Minnesotans aged 65 or older before increasing distribution in order to ensure that the most vulnerable population was prioritized. Officials expected that this benchmark would be hit by the end of March, but this timeline was accelerated with the approval of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Unlike the existing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson is a single-shot vaccine, allowing for quicker vaccinations without necessitating that recipients wait three to four weeks for a second dose. At this quickened pace, it is expected that Minnesota might be able to expand eligibility once again by the end of April, with the next eligible group including people 16 years and older with underlying health conditions and people between the ages of 50 and 64 regardless of health conditions.

Although vaccinations are accelerating, there is still a sector of the American public that remains skeptical. A recent poll from The Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (AP-NORC) found that 67% of American adults either have been vaccinated already or plan to do so, while 17% say that they will probably not and 15% say that they are certain they won’t. Some concerns have been raised about whether these metrics would be enough for the American public to achieve herd immunity.

Jasmine Chikkala, a third-year social work student at Augsburg, is one of many advocates vouching for the importance of the vaccine. She received both shots of her vaccine earlier this year through her work at a mental health clinic. 

“I think there is a lack of education about it,” said Chikkala. “I think it would be helpful for people of color to learn more about the safety of the vaccine because that is a barrier. I also think it’s hard knowing what you can and can’t do after getting the vaccine because no one told me afterwards if I didn’t have to be as worried or anything.” Chikkala’s experience with the vaccine was positive, having experienced no adverse symptoms.

“The vaccine is helping a lot of people, and people are still dying from COVID every single day,” said Chikkala. “If more people can choose to get vaccinated, I think there could be a much safer atmosphere.”

Augsburg students who want to learn more about campus COVID-19 resources or the transmission rates statewide are encouraged to access Augsburg’s Outbreak Planning website for more information. Anyone who wishes to look up their vaccine eligibility or seek out a vaccine location can do so on the Minnesota COVID-19 Response website.

A timeline of COVID vaccinations and when different sections of the population are being expected to receive them, obtained from the Minnesota Government COVID-19 Response website.