ST. PAUL — The state-run COVID-19 testing sites and vaccination clinics Minnesota stood up during the coronavirus pandemic will wind down operations starting in July, Gov. Tim Walz said last week.
Speaking at the Minnesota State Capitol on Friday, June 25, the governor attributed the move to the high percentage of residents older than 16 who have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and the thousand "other sites that are now embedded into the community."
Nearly 67% of residents in that age range are partially vaccinated, and it's unclear at this time if the state will hit its initial goal of 70% by July 1.
The eight remaining clinics, seven of which are in the Twin Cities area, are still open and accepting patients and there's been no announcement as to when they and the testing sites will close down for good. But their counterparts in private medicine appear poised to continue testing for the disease and vaccinating members of the public when they do.
"These clinics have been an effective part of our vaccination ecosystem, administering more than 600,000 doses of vaccine over the last six months," Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson Doug Schultz said in an email.
"They were never meant to be permanent fixtures, and as more people get their vaccine we will adjust our resources to ensure a stable vaccination network to best serve Minnesotans in the months ahead," he continued. "We will release more information on the future of the program as necessary."
State government will continue managing a vaccine stockpile, Walz told reporters Friday, and perform other oversight duties related to the coronavirus pandemic. Pharmacies in Minnesota, meanwhile, largely said they will continue to administer the vaccine for as long as necessary.
Though it’s unclear how many doses each pharmacy operator in Minnesota has been responsible for, retail pharmacies have administered 94 million doses of the vaccine as of June 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They have also provided the most vaccine doses in Minnesota, having used approximately 1.6 million doses, or about 27.4%, of the nearly 5.7 million administered in the state as of this week.
Primary care providers, according to Minnesota Department of Health data, have administered the second-most doses at just over 27%.
According to spokesperson Ashley Skokan, Hy-Vee pharmacies will continue to provide the vaccine for the “the foreseeable future.” Independent pharmacies in Minnesota associated with the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network, which statewide have administered a total of 180,200 doses, will "continue to do so to meet the needs of our communities and patients," said network facilitator Lindsay Christensen.
Representatives for Walgreens, CVS and Costco, who are administering vaccines in Minnesota through a federal program, deferred to the state health department for comment. Private care providers can also be sent shipments of vaccine by the state government.
Sean Karpowich, of Hugo's Family Pharmacy in East Grand Forks, said in an interview that his store is part of what's known as the "Federal Retail Pharmacy Program" and that he can order additional doses from the state government. But as interest in the vaccine wanes, he said, he likely won't pursue the latter so as to avoid wasting doses.
"We're giving one or two vaccines a day," he said, though "we're fully prepared to give as many as we need to immunity. We have as much as we need."