Feb 1, 2021 - News

Gov. Tim Walz defends Minnesota's COVID vaccine rollout

Photo: Scott Takushi/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

While the pace is picking up, until recently Minnesota ranked near the bottom of states for its slower-than-hoped-for coronavirus vaccine rollout.

The state of play: In an interview with Axios, Gov. Tim Walz defended his approach, saying the state has actually done well when it comes to getting people fully vaccinated with both doses.

  • "West Virginia may have more of those [vaccines] out of the front end, but we have more people with protection, because of the second doses," he said, referencing one of the nation's leaders in vaccine distribution.

Yes, but: Walz said in retrospect, the state could have focused more on leveraging its "very robust private health care system" instead of relying on a federal partnership with large pharmacies to inoculate long-term care residents.

  • "Candidly, here's the thing: I thought President Trump would punish governors that opted out of it," the DFL governor said.
  • Walz also blamed the state's scramble to establish vaccine distribution and appointment systems on "an overconfidence that the federal government had that part right," despite Minnesota being tapped by the CDC to come up with plans last year.

Driving the comments: MDH data show the large pharmacies at the center of that program have lagged other providers in getting available shots into arms.

What's next: Walz asked the large pharmacies to turn over unused doses so MDH could reallocate them to a broader group of seniors and teachers.

  • Starting today, the state will also redirect doses from most pilot vaccination sites to medical providers to get "significantly more vaccine" to Minnesotans 65 and older, per the Star Tribune.

Meanwhile, communication issues continue to cause confusion.

  • The latest hiccup happened this weekend, when a state vendor accidentally sent notes to thousands of seniors erroneously claiming their appointments were canceled.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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