COVID-19 vaccine is now available to all Minnesotans 16 and older, though finding it may still be a challenge — at least for a few weeks.
Tuesday's expansion lengthens the line of vaccine recipients by an estimated 900,000 people, but doesn't increase the supply of federally controlled COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota. State health officials expect larger shipments in the coming weeks to meet the additional demand — increasing from around 175,000 first doses per week in March to 304,000 doses per week in April.
"The exciting thing about this is everybody's in line," said Gov. Tim Walz last week when he announced the expansion. He is receiving COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday in a promotional event along with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Out of an estimated pool of 4.4 million eligible Minnesotans, the state on Monday reported that more than 1.6 million people have received COVID-19 vaccine and more than 990,000 have completed the series by receiving two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer versions or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson version.
Roughly 81% of senior citizens have received at least a first dose of vaccine — a key demographic group that has suffered 89% of Minnesota's COVID-19 deaths. Other priority groups include health care workers, long-term care residents, K-12 and child-care educators and non-elderly adults with qualifying health conditions or front-line occupations.
Two-thirds of teachers have received vaccine as well in Minnesota. The completion of some priority groups is gradually making doses available to the broader public through public health events, medical providers and retail pharmacies.
State infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said last week that vaccine had been offered in 99% of long-term care facilities, freeing up doses committed to that population for others.
The high demand was reflected Tuesday morning on the Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters group page on Facebook, which now has 52,000 followers.
"CVS Now!" one user posted at around 6 a.m., along with a picture of a pharmacy webpage showing appointments.
Others in their replies found themselves shut out.
"Was almost booked," one person bemoaned, "and screen went back to beginning and tried again and all appointments were full."
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744