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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - State health officials say they are being told to expect around 183,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the early stages of what will become the world’s largest-ever immunization program.

Governor Tim Walz stressed that number could change and has changed in recent days as the federal government prepares for the distribution of the two vaccines that have been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. It’s expected the Pfizer vaccine will receive that authorization before the end of the week and Governor Walz says Minnesota could begin receiving shipments next week.

Following federal guidelines, the initial shipments of the vaccine will be used to inoculate health care personnel and people in long-term facilities. It was noted the two vaccines on the verge of federal approval both require two shots, which means the first shipments will only allow for the vaccination of just over 91,000 people. State officials estimate about 500,000 Minnesotans meet the criteria to receive the vaccine in the first phase of the program.

State Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann says that has required the state to develop sub-priority groups to plan for the initial phases of the vaccination initiative. It’s been decided the first group in line for the vaccine will be health care personnel likely to have exposure to COVID infected individuals and residents of skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes.

The second sub-priority group includes other health care personnel, along with the staff and residents of assisted living centers. The final priority group in the first phase involves all other remaining health care personnel unable to work at home and vulnerable people living in group homes and other residential centers.

If all goes as expected, Ehresmann says the first vaccinations in Minnesota should begin in the final week of December.

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