MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s timeline to offer any adult in the state a vaccine by June is likely to speed up with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a promised boost in production from Pfizer and Moderna, Gov. Walz said Wednesday, adding that summer activities are “promising.”

More than 45,000 of the first doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which were approved by the FDA just days ago, arrived in Minnesota Wednesday. Shots in arms will begin this weekend, exactly one year after state health officials confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the state.

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“I can remember talking about it and the experts telling me there will more than likely be a vaccine — it’s not a guarantee — but it could be years,” Walz recalled during a news conference at M Health Fairview. “Well here we are, one-and-a-half-million doses given.”

Walz last week set a plan that would make segments of the state population eligible for doses in phases based on age, occupation and underlying health conditions. Under that timeline, any Minnesota adult could start getting their shots by the end of June.

Health officials admit, though, that the plan is conservative estimate based on current pace of Pfizer and Moderna shipments, about a 5% weekly increase, without considering Johnson & Johnson in the equation at all.

 

(credit: Johnny Milano/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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But with a boost in vaccine promised from Pfizer and Moderna — and Johnson & Johnson doses that should significantly increase in three to four weeks — Walz said that the timeline could shrink and more people will be eligible sooner, starting with the next group of food processing plant workers and Minnesotans with specific underlying health conditions.

About 54% of Minnesota seniors have gotten at least one dose so far. Health officials have set a benchmark of 70% before expanding eligibility, which was originally expected for the end of March, but now could happen more quickly.

“I think will significantly beat that,” Walz said of the majority of seniors vaccinated before April. “The speed of this vaccine development is pushing things, compressing the time that we’re getting more and more people vaccinated.”

Walz was optimistic that summer activities could happen this year.

“It appears to me that the brass ring is pretty grabbable for State Fair and those types of things,” Walz said, naming June weddings specifically. “Those events that are further out, certainly June and beyond — those look pretty, pretty promising.”

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President Joe Biden on Tuesday pledged that the United States would have enough COVID-19 vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May, which is sooner than the original July timeline, though that doesn’t mean every single person will have received their shot by then.

Caroline Cummings