Minnesota plans to expand COVID-19 booster eligibility by end of week

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The Minnesota Department of Health is preparing to expand eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots by the end of the week.

During a regular call on Tuesday, MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the state has told federal partners that it will expand booster eligibility at the end of the week, even if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t yet formally approved it.

Malcolm said MDH is concerned enough about the surge of COVID-19 in the state and believes it’s urgent enough to make boosters available to every Minnesotan. She added that MDH does get a sense that federal partners are close to approving booster expansion, anyway.

According to federal action up to this point, there are still some restrictions on who’s been approved for boosters. Starting six months past their last Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, people are urged to get a booster if they’re:

  • 65 or older.
  • Nursing home residents.
  • At least 50 and at increased risk of severe disease because of health problems.

Boosters are also allowed for adults of any age at increased risk of infection because of health problems or their jobs or living conditions. That includes health care workers, teachers and people in jails or homeless shelters.

It comes as 51 COVID-19 deaths and 10,913 cases were reported by MDH on Tuesday, although those numbers include data from over the weekend.

Hospital capacity has been strained across the state in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, MDH reported 1,348 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized and 307 in intensive care, numbers not seen since late December 2020. Additionally, only 1% of staffed beds are available in the metro and other portions of the state are in similar spots; only 2% of ICU beds are available in the metro, which is similar to other regions in Minnesota. Also, no pediatric hospital beds are available in the northwest or south-central parts of the state, and no pediatric ICU beds are available in the central region of Minnesota, Malcolm said Tuesday.

The Minnesota Medical Association on Tuesday urged Minnesotans to get vaccinated to help stop the spread of COVID-19, as the state has risen to the top of the nation’s infection rate.

"Seventy percent of the COVID-19 cases admitted to Minnesota hospitals are people who are not vaccinated," MMA President Randy Rice said. "As Thanksgiving approaches, Minnesota physicians are thankful for the availability of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. We need more people to recognize this, roll up a sleeve, and give the gift of health to yourself, your family, friends, and community."