MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Each day we get closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, and Minnesota has a plan for when it gets the green light.

The state hopes to vaccinate more than 183,000 Minnesotans by the end of the year. Each person will need two doses a few weeks apart, depending on the vaccine.

The first round of COVID-19 vaccinations were given to the most at-risk in the U.K., a sight soon to be seen in Minnesota, beginning with health care workers and long-term care residents.

“If we can get this vaccine to the people who are most vulnerable for poor outcomes and the people who take care of the people who need care, that will be the biggest bang for our buck, so to speak,” health commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

The first wave of vaccines arrive from Pfizer next week, delivered directly to 25 hubs (often hospitals) around the state, and will then be distributed to 118 smaller clinics.

The Pfizer doses must be stored at 90 degrees below zero. Gov. Tim Walz says all 25 hubs have proper cold storage.

“That is highly specialized and hard to get. If you are in a state that didn’t do this ahead of time, this becomes much more of a challenge,” Walz said.

Since there are more health care workers and long-term care residents than vaccine doses immediately available, the state will further prioritize who gets a dose first.

For example, health care staff who contracted COVID-19 in the last 90 days might have to wait. The second group to get the vaccine includes first responders, teachers and school staff. The third group is adults with high risk medical conditions, or over 65 years old.

Walz says news of a vaccine distribution is to be celebrated, but not solely relied on in stopping the virus’ spread.

“The most effective thing we can do is mask, social distancing, mitigation, testing, and quarantining and isolation,” Walz said.

The vaccines are still awaiting FDA approval, which could happen over the next week. Getting vaccinated is not mandatory.

Jeff Wagner