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DULUTH – The first doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Duluth after St. Luke's received its initial shipment Wednesday.

"We're excited to get it," said Mike Boeselager, vice president of support services at the Duluth-based health system. "The faster we can get shots in arms, (the better)."

The 100 doses St. Luke's received will be administered Saturday.

Boeselager is hopeful future shipments will be larger; the hospital's vaccine clinic has averaged 450 shots per day and can handle 600.

To date, St. Luke's has vaccinated nearly 13,000 people. Across St. Louis County, close to 46,000 people — 23% of the population — have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Duluth-based Essentia Health, which has vaccinated 45,000 people across the state, said it has received 2,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to distribute among five Minnesota locations.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved by federal regulators over the weekend and has been shown effective at preventing serious illness and the spread of the virus. The third vaccine, following the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech shots, helps boost supplies just as the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants are starting to concern public health officials.

"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an excellent option for Minnesotans. In clinical trials, it was highly effective in preventing serious illness and completely effective in preventing hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. "Minnesotans should be confident that every authorized vaccine is safe and effective, and we encourage everyone to get whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available to them."

Boeselager said the faster vaccinations can be given to those 65 and older, the faster other groups can receive their shots, per state guidelines.

Minnesota is scheduled to receive 45,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

St. Louis County Public Health has not received the new vaccine yet.

Essentia announced Wednesday it is now allowing anyone in their service area who is 65 and older to call and make a vaccine appointment.

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496