MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We have a better idea of who will get the COVID-19 vaccines first in Minnesota, and who will be second in line. At a Wednesday news conference, Gov. Tim Walz and state officials say the state is required to follow federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Health commissioner Jan Malcolm said health care workers, long-term care workers and long-term care residents are in group 1A and are first in line for the vaccine. Next up would be first responders, including firefighters, paramedics, and police officers.

The vaccine information was made public at a news conference spotlighting how COVID has decimated not only hospital staff but the ranks of Minnesota’s first responders. Of the state’s 500 major fire departments, 20% have had major COVID outbreaks.

Plato, in rural McLeod County, had to temporarily shut down, relying on mutual aid departments miles away.

“Before we knew it, over three-quarters of our fire departments had been affected one way or another from the virus,” Chief Jay Wood said.

In Eagan, their police chief declined to go into detail but said outbreaks in his department have affected how they investigate.

The effort by the governor to call attention to first responders comes on the same day that the Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association asked that first responders be moved into the first category of those getting vaccinated. The state says they have to follow federal guidelines and they will have to be second.

While the first shipment of vaccine in Minnesota is expected next week, the first vaccines will likely come closer to Christmas. First responders say they are eager to get the shot.

The eagerness of first responders to get the vaccine and to get it as soon as possible contrasts with the general public. The most recent Gallup poll found that while 48% of the public says they would get the vaccine, but 42% said they would not.

While health care workers, long term care residents, and first responders will be in the first two groups to get the vaccine, Malcolm says the rest of Minnesota will come in a third group that will also have to be prioritized.

Esme Murphy