4 Minnesota sites got COVID-19 vaccines Monday to be administered starting next week
Minnesota's first COVID-19 vaccines arrived Monday at four different locations across the state.
Those sites included the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, Olmsted Medical Center and Cass Lake Indian Health Services.
Future vaccine distribution will go through a series of hubs across the state, including one in St. Cloud, according to information shared by the Minnesota Department of Health on Monday.
Minnesota expects to receive 46,800 units of the vaccine this week, according to state health officials on a Monday call with reporters.
"This is an exciting day for Minnesota," said Gov. Tim Walz in a statement. He met the arrival of the first vaccines at the Minneapolis VA on Monday. "The first vaccines are here. They are safe, and they will be ready to go soon. The sun is coming up, Minnesota."
It will still be months until the average Minnesotan can get vaccinated, said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for the Minnesota Department of Health.
Health care workers and long-term care residents will get the first round of vaccines, Ehresmann said. "In the meantime, we need to be patient and continue to take those measures that keep all Minnesotans safe: wearing a mask when in public, maintaining social distancing, getting tested and property isolating in quarantine when needed."
The first round of vaccinations will begin next week, as Department of Health staff will train providers on protocols and procedures for administering the vaccine, Ehresmann said. That means teaching people how to safely administer the vaccine, as well as how to safely handle and store it.
"Our commitment is to make sure that everyone feels comfortable, down to the vaccinators," Ehresmann said. "To do it safely, that's more important than being the first at this point."
Federal facilities, including the Indian Health Services and Veterans Affairs facilities, are receiving vaccines through the U.S. government and those doses are not counted among the state's allocation.
COVID vaccines and the VA
The Minneapolis VA was one of 37 VA sites across the U.S. to receive a first round of vaccines.
"The centers ... were chosen for their ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store the vaccines at extremely cold temperatures," according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans in the VA's long-term care facilities will get the first vaccines and VA health care workers will be among the first to receive vaccines.
The St. Cloud VA Health Care System was not one of the initial 37 sites to receive vaccines. Vaccination will begin at the St. Cloud VA in the "near future," but the date isn't set yet, said Public Affairs Officer Barry Venable.
"There'll be a limited number of vaccines to start, anywhere," Venable said.
As more vaccine doses become available the VA plans to offer it to all veterans in the VA system, he said. But there's no need to call ahead to reserve one. The VA will reach out to veterans as vaccine distribution becomes more widespread.
Nora Hertel is the government watchdog reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-255-8746 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @nghertel.
Reporter Erik Newland contributed to this report.