EAGAN, Minn. (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday both got their COVID-19 vaccines together, a bipartisan effort to build public trust as vaccine eligibility expands to any Minnesota adult.

“This is not a political issue in any manner. These vaccines are safe,” Pawlenty said during a news conference with Walz at the Vikings training facility. “We hope that no one is hesitant to get these vaccines.”

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The two governors publicly receiving a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines comes on the very day the state expanded vaccine eligibility to any Minnesotan 16 and older. The pair are urging people to get their vaccines as soon as they can.

(credit: CBS)

“Whatever vaccine is available when your time comes up, that’s the best vaccine,” Walz said.

More than 1 million Minnesotans have completed their vaccine series and 1.6 million have at least one dose, numbers that Walz touted Tuesday. There are 4.4 million Minnesotans in the 16+ population and 37% of that group now has at least one shot.

Demand right now still exceeds supply, even with the state’s share of doses on the rise and more people getting vaccinated.

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But there will come a time when they have more vaccine than people who want it, the governor and public health experts note. And in the race to beat the more infectious variants and reach 80% of adults inoculated for herd immunity, state officials will have to overcome a vaccine hesitancy obstacle.

The state is pushing efforts to reach underserved communities of color, which can have mistrust in vaccines for historical reasons. But there is also public opinion polling to suggest there is a reluctance along political party lines.

A CBS News poll earlier this month found more Republicans are unwilling to get the vaccine than Democrats. Just 47% said yes they will get a vaccine or already did, compared to 71% of Democrats and 51% of Independents.

Pawlenty, a Republican, acknowledged this on Tuesday, speculating that it could be due to skepticism of government and government-administered programs. But he doubled down on the message that vaccines are effective and necessary in order to beat the pandemic.

“I want to underscore and emphasize and underline and highlight the fact that these vaccines, by every known evidence that we have across the globe, certified by authorities in the private and public sector, nonprofit sector, all say the same thing — these vaccines are safe and incredibly helpful, and everyone should get them,” he said.

Walz encouraged people looking for more information to seek it out. Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that there will be a ramped up vaccine outreach effort in the coming weeks.

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“If some of you out there still need a little more information, that’s understandable,” Walz said. “Get it. Go to your doctor. Get to someone that you trust.”

Caroline Cummings