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All Minnesotans 16 and older to be eligible for COVID vaccine starting Tuesday

Walz announced the change after a promise of increased vaccine supplies from the federal government.

North Memorial COVID vaccination site, Brooklyn Center
North Memorial COVID vaccination site, Brooklyn Center
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

Gov. Tim Walz has announced that all Minnesotans age 16 and up will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination starting Tuesday, March 30.

The opening of vaccines to anyone who is over 16 represents a change in direction from the plans Minnesota announced last month to continue a phased approach. The announcement comes amid many other states’ decisions to significantly increase eligibility after President Joe Biden earlier this month directed all states to make adults eligible by May 1.

Walz said eligibility is opening further because the federal government has promised increased supply and because he said Minnesota has become a leader in quickly using vaccines as they are sent to the state.

The most recent data from the state show 27.1 percent of Minnesotans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the state ranks 16th in the share of its population that’s been vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minnesota has vaccinated 80 percent of seniors, two-thirds of school and child care workers, according to Walz.

He said providers should continue to prioritize Minnesotans who are older and have underlying health conditions, but that vaccinators now have the flexibility to give younger people the shots, too.

“Families, you can go together and get everybody vaccinated. I would make an appeal to where we’re seeing some of the highest spread happening, in our younger people, take your roommates and go and get the vaccine,” Walz said.

While all Minnesotans over age 16 will become eligible Tuesday, not everyone will immediately be able to make an appointment, Walz said; demand for vaccines still outstrips supply.

Walz said next week’s supply is expected to be similar to this week’s, with a boost coming the week of April 5.

Currently, no vaccine has been approved for use in the U.S. for anyone under the age of 16.

Dr. Abraham Jacob, chief quality officer for MHealth Fairview, characterized the rollout of vaccines as a race against variants of the virus. Though COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are down in Minnesota due to the most vulnerable being protected by vaccinations, cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota are rising as faster-spreading variants gain a foothold.

He urged Minnesotans to continue to wear masks and social distance until herd immunity is reached.

Walz challenged Minnesotans to help the state become the first in the nation to have 80 percent of its population vaccinated.

“I need your help, Minnesota. We beat this pandemic with you. We beat it by you going and getting the vaccine. If you’ve got a friend, a neighbor, a family member — they’re not quite sure about this and you’re’ pretty sure they’re not going to listen to me when I tell them to do it, maybe they’ll  listen to you,” he said.

Minnesotans can sign up for the state’s vaccine connector, which alerts eligible Minnesotans when vaccines are available to them at government sites here. Pharmacies providing vaccines can be found here.