Updated: 3:14 p.m.
Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday said the wheels are turning now on initial plans to vaccinate Minnesotans against COVID-19 and the process is working largely as expected.
Minnesota began injecting health care workers last week with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after the firm received emergency federal approval. The state's first supply contained 46,800 doses; another 33,150 are expected to follow.
About 94,800 doses of vaccine produced by another company, Moderna, are expected this week, with much of that arriving in the next 24 hours, Walz told reporters. A second Moderna supply with about 32,900 doses is anticipated next week along with 42,900 more from Pfizer.
Walz said about 250,000 total doses are expected by the end of the month. Beyond that, things are still in flux.
The Moderna doses, which don’t require the kind of deep cold storage required for the Pfizer vaccine, are being scheduled now for residents and workers of long-term care facilities across the state.
“The days ahead are brighter,” the governor told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “The vaccines are here. They’re being distributed as quickly and efficiently as we can. Demand outstrips supply at this point, but we’ll get there.”
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He also urged people to continue to wear masks in public gathering spaces, socially distance and take other measures to stay vigilant against the spread of the disease.
Vaccination of Minnesota health care workers has begun, with 2,999 vaccinated so far, said Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director.
Ehresmann urged hope and patience, since it will take time to get to the point where vaccination is widely available.
“There’s no part of the state that doesn’t have a great need for the vaccine,” she said.
Walz and Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that they were encouraged by the recent positive trends in caseloads and hospitalizations, but they signaled it likely would not be enough to end the current ban on indoor bar and restaurant service before the current order expires on Jan. 10.
Minnesota still has “just a very, very high level of viral activity around the state, and we just don’t want to take our eye off that,” Malcolm said. “We really need to stay the course through these next several weeks.”