MN expands vaccine eligibility ahead of schedule

Ashley Wiertzema, Wilkin County Public Health, said they anticipate they will be ready to move on to Tier 2 and 3 by the end of the month. 

Minnesota will be expanding vaccine eligibility Wednesday, March 10, after a successful few weeks that pushed the state close to their goal of vaccinating 70 percent of people aged 65 and older, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday, March 9.

“Things are going in the direction we hoped. Minnesotans are doing everything that’s being asked of them, and it is making a difference,” Walz said.

Previous guidance from the Walz administration estimated the state would reach its goal by the end of March. The state’s vaccine tracker shows 67.1 percent of individuals aged 65 and older had received at least one vaccine dose as of Sunday, March 7.

“At our current pace, Minnesota is now several weeks ahead of schedule. More than 1.8 million Minnesotans will become eligible to receive a vaccine beginning this week,” Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-04B) stated in an email.

The next population in line to receive vaccine — Phase 1b Tier 2 — are Minnesotans with specific underlying health conditions (sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, those in cancer treatment or immunocompromised from organ transplant, oxygen-dependent chronic lung and heart conditions like COPD & CHF) and food processing plant workers.

Then, in Phase 1b Tier 3, people 45-64 with one or more high-risk medical conditions; people 16-44 with two or more high-risk medical conditions; Minnesotans age 50 years and older in multi-generational housing; and agricultural, airport staff, additional child care workers not previously eligible, correctional settings, first responders, food production, food retail, food service, judicial system workers, manufacturing, public health workers, public transit and U.S. Postal Service workers.

Ashley Wiertzema, Wilkin County Public Health, said they anticipate they will be ready to move on to Tier 2 and 3 by the end of the month. County residents aged 65 and older who have not received vaccine yet should check with Thrifty White Pharmacy or CHI St. Francis Health, Wiertzema said.

As of March 9, there are no Minnesota vaccine openings through Thrifty White Pharmacy, according to their website.

CHI St. Francis Health is taking appointments at the Primary Care Walk-In Clinic, according to their Friday, March 5 Facebook post. Wilkin County residents 65 and older should visit https://spr.ly/6180HW6bq, click “Contact Us,” select “Other Inquiries” from the dropdown menu, then write a message that they wish to be placed on the vaccine list.

They can also call (218) 643-0405 and leave a message including their name, age, phone number and any underlying health conditions.

Wiertzema said public health will not be receiving first dose vaccines for the next two weeks; they are currently administering second dose vaccines. The county public health will focus on Tier 2 first, vaccinating as many people as possible, before moving on to Tier 3 individuals, she said.

Wilkin County is just behind the state, having vaccinated 63.5 percent of individuals 65 and older as of Sunday. The next two tiers will cover about 1.8 million people in the state.

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