Mar. 19—MANKATO — A COVID-19 vaccination site will open next week in Mankato, according to Gov. Tim Walz's office.
The site will be at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center downtown.
It will be the state's seventh community vaccination site for COVID-19 and the first in south-central Minnesota.
"Across the state, we are building an expansive network of providers to bring vaccines directly to Minnesotans in their communities. Our Community Vaccine Program is a key component of this provider network," said Walz in a news release. "The community vaccination sites are incredibly efficient at getting shots into arms, and this new location will help us reach more people in southern Minnesota quicker than ever before."
The governor encouraged Minnesotans to sign up for the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Connector as a way to be notified once they're eligible for the vaccine. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan named frontline workers whose jobs put them at increased risk for COVID-19 exposures among the groups that will be vaccinated at the site.
"Minnesota providers are working hard to get shots to everyone who needs them, and we're excited to stand up this additional community vaccination opportunity to help make that possible," she said.
Minnesotans also can contact local providers to see when they're eligible for the vaccine. The state's vaccine finder map lists contact information for local providers.
The large-scale vaccine site's opening will come after a stretch of weeks with elevated COVID-19 case counts and positivity rates in the south-central Minnesota region.
As of Friday, 33,057 residents in south-central Minnesota had completed their vaccinations — 14.2% of the region's population. A total of 57,111 area residents had received at least one dose — 24.6% of the population.
The region's progress is in line with or ahead of the statewide numbers so far. More than 788,000 people statewide — about 14.2% of the population — completed their vaccinations as of Friday, while more than 1.3 million — 24% — received at least one dose.
State officials expect Minnesota to receive 350,000 doses of vaccine during the week of March 29, Walz said Friday. More Johnson & Johnson doses are also expected in April, an encouraging sign because that vaccine only requires one dose.
Through various federal and state channels, area clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and public health agencies continue to receive vaccine allotments. The South Central Health Care Coalition had a group of 23 facilities eligible to receive vaccines this week, with the coalition steering 1,470 doses to 10 locations, said coordinator Eric Weller.
About half of the facilities will soon transition to receive doses through different channels. It'll leave the coalition with 11 eligible recipients for vaccine supply, Weller said.
"If we continue to get the same allocation, that's great news," he said. "Then we can divide it up and have more doses for people."
Blue Earth and Brown counties already had more than 80% of age 65 or older residents vaccinated as of early this week, according to Weller, while Nicollet and Waseca counties were at 76%.
As more younger populations become eligible for the vaccine, Weller hopes their uptake levels match the willingness shown by older groups.
"This is a safe vaccine," he said. "We need people to get vaccinated so we can get herd immunity. We want to get back to the things Minnesotans love to do, and to do that, we need the vaccine."
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