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VACCINE ROLLOUT: State leaders dealing with challenges of limited supply in both Gopher and Hawkeye states

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Nurse administers COVID vaccine

(FOX 47) -- It has been less than two months since the first COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in Minnesota and Iowa.

As of Wednesday, more than 200,000 people have received the first dose in Iowa and more than 300,000 in Minnesota.

"The first dose of vaccine has now been administered in nearly every long-term care facility in Iowa," said Iowa governor Kim Reynolds at a Wednesday press conference as the state prepares to finish vaccinating the first group in the next week.

"We believe that all skilled nursing facilities in Minnesota have now had their first doses," said Minnesota Department of Health commissioner Jan Malcolm, last week Friday.

Iowa and Minnesota working to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, with all people 65 and older now eligible to get their doses.

"We have far more Minnesotans eligible for getting the vaccine than we have doses available from the federal government," warned Malcolm a couple weeks ago.

A successful vaccine rollout will require work with community partners.

"As the vaccine rollout continues across the country and state and vaccine increases, local community pharmacies will serve as an access point for Iowans to receive that COVID vaccine," said Lindsey Ludwig, director of CPESN Iowa, a network of community-based healthcare practices in Iowa.

One of those partners in Iowa is a drugstore in Waverly.

"All Iowans that want the vaccine will receive it," said Ryan Frerichs, owner of Mayer Pharmacy. "We appreciate and request your continued patience as we tirelessly work through the logistics and distribution."

Cerro Gordo Public Health Director Brian Hanft explained his county is partnering with pharmacies to vaccinate both people long-term care facilities and front line workers.

A problem for larger pharmacies is how to redistribute doses that were not used by health care staff.

"The lower than expected uptake among staff has resulted in an unused supply at both CVS and Walgreens," reported Gov. Reynolds Wednesday.

Both Iowa and Minnesota have one common problem, not enough vaccines.

With nine pilot vaccine sites set up across Minnesota last week, problems arose in the first few days.

"I take full responsibility. I'll stand here," said Walz. "I predicted that you all would be madder than heck and Minnesotans would be because they wouldn't get their vaccines."

"Roughly 13,000 Minnesotans were able to receive the first doses of their COVID vaccine as part of this pilot program last week," said Tarek Tomes, Minnesota IT services commissioner.

As opposed to last week, those eligible for the vaccine are selected randomly instead of whoever signs up first. More than 180,000 Minnesotans already have their names on the list as of Tuesday. Expansion is on the way.

"We do have tenth site this week going live. It will be in St. Paul at Roy Wilkins," said Anne O'Connor, Minnesota Department of Commerce commissioner.

"The changes that we have made puts Minnesota in a better position to quickly ramp up when more vaccine becomes available," Tomes added.

Over in Iowa, Hanft says Cerro Gordo County plans to create a website where those 65 and older can sign up. While he expects an overwhelming amount of people trying to sign up, he believes this is more fair than a lottery system, which is what the Minnesota pilot program is doing.

Reynolds says the Biden administration told her to expect a 16 percent increase in vaccine doses being allotted starting next week.

Alex Tejada

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