Gov. Tim Walz announced a plan Monday to get more COVID-19 vaccine doses into the arms of senior citizens, but some Republican senators think the proposal comes up short.
State Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, called a press conference Monday to unveil her “seniors first” vaccine plan.
As of Saturday, 159,660 Minnesotans above the age of 65 have received at least one vaccine dose out of 441,922 people vaccinated, according to the Department of Health. Of the latter number, 116,248 have completed their vaccine series, but it’s unclear how many people over 65 have received both their first and second dose. According to Housley, just 25% of the state’s vaccine stockpile has been allocated to the 65+ demographic.
To put that in perspective, Minnesota has reported 5,535 total deaths among people aged 65 and up, meaning that age group accounts for 89.2% of the state’s 6,202 deaths.
Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, said the “only thing consistent that we have is the plan keeps changing.”
“Many prisoners and younger, healthier state employees at correctional facilities have been vaccinated, including those at juvenile detention centers. Literally today the sex offenders at Moose Lake are receiving their shots before 1,000 vulnerable seniors can receive theirs. There’s really something wrong with this picture,” he said.
Gov. Walz said his new vaccination plan announced Monday will get 35,000 doses to Minnesotans aged 65 and older this week. Housley said the plan is “a step in the right direction,” but not “nearly enough.”
“Seniors should be the first and only priority until more vaccine is broadly available,” she said, noting that a total of 98,000 doses are being distributed this week.
Walz recently reserved 15,000 doses exclusively for metro area educators who refuse to return to the classroom until they are vaccinated. More than 225,000 seniors entered last week’s vaccine lottery, but just 9,425, or 4%, received an appointment, WCCO reported. Those who weren’t selected will have other opportunities in the future, Walz’s office said.
“Our seniors have to come first. I will continue to speak up, so our seniors know they are not forgotten. We have 918,000 seniors in our state, and they are at the highest risk for hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID,” said Housley.
She said her “seniors first” proposal calls for blanketing the state with vaccine sites through community pharmacies, which are already equipped to store, schedule, and administer vaccines.
“We need to stop redistributing this vaccine,” Housley continued. “We have pharmacies and doctors’ offices that are prepared to step up so that we can get this vaccine to our seniors. Gov. Walz has shown that he doesn’t have a plan that prioritizes our seniors. There has been confusion, disorganization, and reports of extra doses going to non-priority groups.”
“This rollout has completely failed the very seniors our governor claims to prioritize. His decisions should reflect that this is a matter of life or death for our most vulnerable Minnesotans. We need to put our seniors first, and we need to get the vaccines directly to them. Anything else is unacceptable.”