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First Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses arrive in Northland, bring optimism to the state

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ST. PAUL, MN -- The first Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in Minnesota, and the state will receive 45,200 doses this week.

Governor Walz met one of the first shipments in the state; he said Minnesotans have every reason to be optimistic as the state celebrates receiving its first doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“This is an exciting development. We now have three vaccines available that are safe and highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” said Governor Walz.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help our state quickly provide immunity and get us one step closer to ending this pandemic. We know we need broad community protection before we can get back to the normal, enjoyable parts of life we have missed, and the way we get there is by getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Everyone who has the opportunity to get this shot should take it.”

By the end of March, he's hoping the state will be receiving 200,000 doses a week.

Locally, St. Luke's Hospital received 100 doses of the vaccine Wednesday and bringing with it a sense of hope.

"We are thrilled to receive it. This is a regional collaboration to get shots in arms for Minnesotans," said Mike Boeselager, the Vice President Support Services at St. Luke's. "The faster we can distribute that and get those vaccinations completed, the faster we can move on to other populations."

In the press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Walz also mentioned that more doses mean the state can accelerate its vaccination timeline and open appointments to more people.

He said they're also starting to think about the next steps for reopening, but they don't want to go too fast and allow variants to spread.

St. Luke's said an increase in vaccinations is something they are prepared to handle.

"Right now, we are running at a rate of 450 a day, and we can handle around 600 a day, easily seven days a week. So, if the product is available, we are prepared to serve the community in a large capacity that way," said Boeselager.

“It is exciting to welcome a third safe and highly effective vaccine to Minnesota,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.

“As a single-dose vaccine that does not require ultra-cold storage, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help us quickly immunize even more Minnesotans. These life-saving vaccines will be the way we end this pandemic, and we will make sure all communities in Minnesota have fair and equitable access to all safe and effective vaccines. Every Minnesotan should get vaccinated at the first opportunity available to them. Today is a good day.”

According to Walz's office, as of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control ranked Minnesota third among states for the percentage of doses received that have been administered.

Minnesota providers have administered more than 1.4 million doses to almost 930,000 Minnesotans.

More than 54 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older and 56 percent of K-12 educators and childcare workers have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

St. Luke's will be administering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine Saturday.

Natalie Grant

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