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Two Tims — Govs. Walz and Pawlenty — get COVID shots side by side

By Brian Bakst, Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota’s current governor and a former one rolled up their sleeves Tuesday to get their vaccines while encouraging others to do it, too.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz waited until eligibility was open to all residents 16 and older before getting his single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He brought former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty with him to a vaccination clinic at the Minnesota Vikings training facility in Eagan.

While the two exchanged some banter, a pair of nurses delivered the doses — in the left arm of Walz and the right arm of Pawlenty.

Noting that more than 1 million Minnesotans have now been fully vaccinated, Walz said he expects to see vaccination numbers climb quickly.

“We’ve got an opportunity over the next three to four weeks to potentially vaccinate another million and a half, or close to it, of Minnesotans, give that many shots out there,” Walz said. “That starts getting us to that number that we all know we want to get to, the 70 to 80 percent of Minnesotans vaccinated that really provides safety.”

Pawlenty said now that everyone 16 and older is eligible, there’s no reason to avoid taking the vaccine.

“Getting vaccinated is not just Minnesota nice — it’s Minnesota smart,” Pawlenty said. “It’s what we need to do to make sure that the hopeful light at the end of this COVID tunnel keeps getting brighter and bigger each day as our state and our nation moves toward exiting this pandemic and getting back to full normal.”

Pawlenty and Walz both got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Walz said all three vaccines are safe and effective, and Minnesotans should take whichever one they are offered.

As for remaining restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Walz said he’s inclined to wait a few more weeks before he eases off, adding that he has an eye on coronavirus variants contributing to recent case growth.

“I think the question we’re asking is — how much impact has the vaccine made by taking the vulnerable out of the risk pool?” Walz said. “And how much difference does it still make by masking up?”