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Minnesota vaccine pilot program spots for first week filled

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota health officials on Wednesday announced that all 6,000 spots in a coronavirus vaccine pilot program reserved for Minnesotans over 65 have been filled after issues with the registration website caused it to crash on Tuesday.

The 12,000 doses reserved for the program this week — half of which are reserved for teachers and child care workers — were diverted to the program from the state’s weekly allocation of 60,000 doses from the federal government. Nine sites will begin administering the limited doses to the newly eligible group on Thursday.

State officials said the significant demand for an extremely limited supply of doses for the program caused long wait times and issues with the website as seniors attempted to make appointments on Tuesday.

As of Sunday, 200,840 Minnesotans have received their first dose of vaccine and 38,521 individuals have been fully inoculated, according to the state’s dashboard. Just over 40% of the 479,525 doses shipped to Minnesota providers across the state have been administered.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm testified before committees in both the House and Senate on Wednesday to update lawmakers on the progress of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts. Malcolm said the state’s pace depends on the number of doses the state is allocated by the federal government, which she said is currently not enough to meet demand.

“We agree that speed is certainly desirable, but highly contingent on the supply,” she said. “We just know that we’re going to be still dealing with supply not being fully adequate to meet the demand … for some time.”

Malcolm said it’s too early to project how President Joe Biden’s administration will transform delivery of vaccines to states.

Malcolm told lawmakers that all 369 skilled-nursing facilities across the state have had first doses administered through the federal pharmacy partnership program and have the inventory they need to administer second doses. Assisted living facilities, which number over 2,000, are expected to have first doses administered or scheduled by early February.

The commissioner said the first two of three tiers of health care workers — which include most hospital workers, emergency medical services and urgent care facilities — have been completed. Health officials aim to have first doses scheduled for the third tier of other health care workers in the coming weeks.

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Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.