Aging and Long-Term Care Committee hears COVID-19 vaccine update

Minnesota’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan is an immense undertaking that has required thoughtful planning and coordination. The state has already distributed nearly 300,000 doses of vaccine to provider sites across the state, and over 80,000 Minnesotans have received a vaccination. This is a huge accomplishment seeing as though there wasn’t even an approved vaccine one month ago. But we know there is a long way to go as shipments from the federal government remain limited, which restricts our ability to get vaccines to everyone who wants one.

The Aging and Long-Term Care committee heard an update from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) this week on COVID-19 testing and immunization for Minnesota’s aging populations. Older adults living in congregate settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, are at increased risk during this pandemic due to the threats of COVID-19. Spikes in community spread throughout the state have forced many facilities to halt their visiting policies, adding more emotional strain on these residents. This is why state and federal guidance puts long-term care residents in the first priority group to receive vaccines, along with many of the state’s health care workers.

Immunizations of Minnesota’s most vulnerable have already begun. Some nursing homes and assisted living facilities are participating in a federal pharmacy partnership program which has encountered issues during rollout, though others are using local pharmacies and public health departments coordinated by MDH, which can move doses faster. As we continue to receive more shipments of vaccine from the federal government, Minnesota will move to immunize adults aged 75 and older, with those aged 65 and older following afterward. More information on the timeline for vaccine rollout in those groups will be available in the coming weeks as we get a better idea of how much vaccine we can expect to receive from the federal government.

We want COVID-19 vaccines to be administered as quickly and as safely as possible so we can all return to a more normal life. States across the nation are struggling with limited vaccine supply, so we must be patient as we make sure those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 and those most at risk for serious illness have access to the immunizations they need until more is available for the general public. While Senate Republicans continue to criticize Governor Walz’s every move without offering solutions or plans, DFLers are committed to identifying what gaps remain in funding or support for our long-term care industry so the Legislature can be an effective partner in overcoming this pandemic.