Nov 17, 2021 - News

Minnesota to expand COVID-19 booster shot eligibility

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 boosters will soon be available to anyone who wants one here in Minnesota.

Driving the news: Department of Health commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that the state will expand booster eligibility to all Minnesotans this week, whether or not the federal government gives the green light.

  • The announcement comes as the Biden administration prepares to expand authorization to all adults in the coming days, per Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Why it matters: Minnesota currently has some of the highest case rates in the nation. On Tuesday, the average seven-day test positivity rate exceeded 10% for the first time in almost a year.

  • Booster shots are an added layer of protection against illness amid the ongoing surge.

Context: Data shows that while the shots continue to offer strong protection against serious illness, vaccine effectiveness has waned over time and with the rise of Delta, Caitlin writes.

  • While there's disagreement among some experts about whether all adults need a booster, studies show the extra doses, administered months after the first shots, can restore protection to higher levels.

What they're saying: Malcolm told reporters in a press call that concerns about the current surge and an increase in breakthrough cases drove the decision to move ahead.

  • "The data are so compelling on the value of boosters to increase that level of protection that we think it's quite urgent to move," she said.

Yes, but: Demand for boosters or additional doses has been relatively low so far among those already eligible, a population that includes seniors, people with health conditions that make them more vulnerable and anyone who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

  • About 715,000 third or booster doses have been administered in Minnesota so far. For context, more than 3 million residents are fully vaccinated, per MDH data.

Between the lines: Approval from state and federal officials could encourage more Minnesotans to seek the booster dose, but many residents are already eligible given the current criteria.

  • Existing guidelines, for example, allow anyone with a BMI over 25 to get a shot. Two-thirds of the population meets that criteria.

What to watch: Given the current levels of community transmission, upcoming Thanksgiving gatherings and travel could worsen or elongate this fall surge.


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