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Minnesota's COVID-19 vaccine providers defend performance

Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune on

Published in News & Features

"That's a really great administration rate, currently, and it has certainly improved," said Margaret Roddy, a state Health Department coordinator of COVID-19 vaccine operations.

State leaders are expected this week to announce whether they will stick with the next phase to the second ACIP priority group — people 75 and older and workers in front-line essential industries — or make a broader range of people eligible.

While the initial phase consisted of 500,000 people working in health care facilities and living in nursing homes, the next phase could include more than 1 million people spread across Minnesota. Providers said they have secured sites and workers to provide larger-scale vaccination events.

The federal government has allotted 626,925 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Minnesota, including 513,750 doses that were in transit as of Saturday or had arrived in the state. Of that supply, at least 174,110 people have received first doses and 32,131 have completed the two-dose course.

The notion that 60% of Minnesota's vaccine doses are sitting unused is incorrect, state officials said. The total allotment includes 451,075 first doses — including 68,625 that won't arrive until next week — and 175,850 second doses that must be reserved. Both vaccines are considered 95% protective if given on schedule — with the Pfizer doses given three weeks apart and the Moderna doses given four weeks apart.

While all states have those statistical dilemmas, some have gotten more doses in arms. South Dakota has administered 61% of its 96,375 doses, according to CDC data.

 

The performance gap between the Dakotas and Minnesota surprised leaders at Sanford, which conducts COVID-19 vaccinations for its workers in all three states.

The Dakotas had a head start by several days even though first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine arrived at the same time in mid-December, Jarvis said. Minnesota required providers to complete online training to ensure that vaccine was handled safely and not wasted.

Some of the difference could be merely statistical. The small populations of the Dakotas could exaggerate their per-capita rates of vaccinations in the same way they give both states two of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the U.S.

More than half of the vaccine sent to the Dakotas has been Moderna doses, which can be stored at regular freezer temperatures that allow for easier storage and transport.

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