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MN vaccine eligibility expands beyond seniors to younger people, some essential workers

Tim Nelson / MPR News

The state will hit its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Minnesotans age 65 and older weeks ahead of schedule, and is rolling out Covid-19 vaccines to a wider array of people.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the expanded guidelines in a statement Tuesday, March 9, hours after health officials posted data indicating that 66 percent of older Minnesotans had already been vaccinated, and the 70-percent benchmark was near.

"We asked most Minnesotans to wait patiently while we protected Minnesotans at higher risk and got shots to at least 70 percent of our seniors. We will hit that milestone on Wednesday — well ahead of schedule," Walz said in a statement. "More Minnesotans will now be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine, beginning this week."

The plan will roll two additional phases into the vaccination plan, originally intended for April. In addition to Minnesotans 65 and older, the newly eligible include those with specific underlying health conditions including sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, or oxygen-dependent chronic lung or heart conditions, as well as those who are being treated for cancer and organ transplant recipients.

The state is also adding to its list of people eligible because of where they work. Newly eligible frontline workers will include food processing plant workers — hit hard by the outbreak last spring — as well as child care workers not previously eligible, first responders, grocery store staff, judicial system workers, factory workers, public health workers, public transit, Postal Service workers and people in correctional settings.

The governor’s office says health officials do not anticipate any immediate changes to restrictions on events or social gatherings. But officials say those, too, are being reconsidered as vaccinations accelerate, and the state may be making more adjustments for summer events and the hospitality industry in the next week or so.

Minnesota House Republicans say they will be calling for rollbacks on state restrictions, including capacity caps and restrictions on games for the Twins and the Wild.