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Minnesota pharmacies request to be part of vaccine rollout

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota pharmacies and health care providers are asking the state to include them in the coronavirus vaccine rollout as the demand for a shot among seniors far outpaces the state’s limited supply.

Pharmacists testified before a Minnesota Senate health committee on Wednesday, telling lawmakers they can provide easier access to vaccine as the priority groups for doses expand to now include Minnesotans over 65. The state began a pilot program Thursday to administer a limited supply of 12,000 shots to seniors, teachers and child care workers at nine sites across the state.

Currently, health care workers are receiving doses through hospitals, and long-term care residents and staff are getting doses through a federal partnership program with pharmacy giants Walgreens, CVS Health and Thrifty White. Pharmacists expressed frustration for not yet hearing from state health officials regarding how they’d be included after nearly 560 pharmacies have registered to be vaccine providers.

Sen. Michelle Benson, chairwoman of the committee, called the nine pilot program sites “premature” and said that state health officials should use the existing infrastructure of local providers,the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Health officials argue the nine sites serve as a foundation for how the state would establish future mass vaccination sites. The state is currently getting just 60,000 doses weekly from the federal government.

As of Sunday, 200,840 first doses of the vaccine have been administered and 38,521 Minnesotans have been fully vaccinated, according to state data. Just over 40% of the nearly 597,000 doses in the state have been used.