Walz blasts feds for uncertainty over vaccine expansion

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Gov. Tim Walz sharply criticized the federal government on Friday for the sudden uncertainty over whether states would receive increased shipments of coronavirus vaccines from the national stockpile, accusing the Trump administration of “lying” earlier this week about speeding up the supply.

At a briefing for reporters that focused mostly on security leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural, Walz noted that he and six other governors had just recently sought permission to tap their states’ second doses to speed up the pace of vaccinations, and that federal officials agreed this week there was no need to hold them back in reserve.

“They said OK. They were lying,” the Democratic governor said. “They don’t have any doses held back. There is no strategic supply for the second doses.”

He added: “We will continue to do what we’ve had to do – clean up the mess that the federal government leaves us with.”

Walz was one of several governors across the country who bitterly accused the Trump administration of deceiving the states about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they can expect to receive as they ramp up vaccinations for senior citizens and others. But the government attributed the anger to confusion and misguided expectations on the part of the states.

The vaccine rollout has gone slower in Minnesota than hoped, as it has in other states, in part because of tight supplies. Based on the federal assurances, state health officials on Thursday took limited steps to give hospitals, health care systems and other vaccination providers flexibility to give shots to a broader group of the population, including people 65 and older, but said they needed the federal government to sharply increase supply.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported that providers across the state had given 162,040 people – or 2.9% of the population – at least a first dose as of Tuesday, including 24,745 people who have had both shots. Manufacturers have now shipped 510,950 doses to Minnesota. Those figures don’t include federal providers such as Veterans Affairs medical centers or the Indian Health Service.

Walz said Minnesota’s distribution plan for the vaccines it does have is “strong and robust.” He said skilled nursing facilities should be done vaccinating their residents with first doses by Monday, and other long-term care facilities are due to be done by Jan 30. Frontline health care workers are also in the first group.

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