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CDC invites Minnesota to join 4-state COVID-19 vaccine pilot

Minnesota Department of Health officials said Monday that Minnesota has been invited to join the pilot group of states that will be "leaders in the country."

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) revealed Monday that the CDC has invited the state to be part of a COVID-19 vaccine pilot group.

MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said on a regular coronavirus briefing call that when a vaccine becomes available, the federal government will provide general guidance on who should be prioritized to receive it first. She said then MDH will take that broad guidance and make it specific for Minnesota.

"We have begun planning for COVID vaccinations, and in fact the CDC has invited Minnesota to be part of a pilot group that will be looking at vaccine planning," she said. "So one of four states that will serve kind of as leaders in the country."

Ehresmann said Minnesota was selected based on the strength of its immunization program, and its history of outreach to specific communities to provide vaccinations.

"So we have actually started planning even though there is not a vaccine that is readily available at this point," she said.

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Ehresmann said vaccinating the entire global population will be "a challenge."

"I think that’s why CDC is interested in working with a few key states to begin to think through how we’ll do this," she said. "I do think it’s important for people to think about, as we move into a time when there’s a vaccine, which we’re all very much waiting for, is that it won’t be a situation in which there will be enough vaccine for everyone right away. It will be a process."

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said there is already a Minnesota COVID Ethics Committee, which is a group of ethicists, health care providers and public health officials working to develop ethically based guidelines on resource allocation. 

There is also a science advisory team, Malcolm said, that gives MDH input on resource allocation through a scientific lens as well as an ethical lens.

"This is something Minnesota has really been leading the nation on for probably 20 years now," Malcolm said. "There have been really robust discussions between the clinical community and the ethics community and community-based organizations diving into these very questions."