ST. PAUL — State health officials on Thursday, Jan. 14, told Minnesota providers of the vaccine for COVID-19 that they can offer it to a broader range of people including those 65 years of age and older.

Federal health authorities days earlier advised states to do as much in a bid to jump-start the U.S. inoculation campaign and end the coronavirus pandemic. The move will essentially allow authorized health care providers to administer leftover doses of the vaccine to Minnesotans covered by the change in guidelines.

"Today’s announcement is designed simply to remove barriers to health care providers and other vaccination partners who have available doses to be able to use those doses as quickly as possible while still ensuring that the doses we have are targeted to those more in need of protection from COVID-19," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on a conference call with the media Thursday.

Minnesota's expansion of vaccine eligibility comes as the nation strives to vaccinate more of its population, and faster. As of Thursday, approximately 169,416 doses have been administered out of the 400,450 so far delivered to it. Doses are being conserved primarily for health care workers, long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

Roughly 15,000 people have received two rounds of the vaccine, which health officials say in order for it to be most effective. A total of 153,332 others have been given at least one dose.

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Malcolm on Thursday stressed that Minnesota has and will continue to receive only a limited supply of vaccine doses. State health officials have said they expect to receive enough vaccine by the end of January to provide first-round shots to the 500,000 or so Minnesotans included in the initial group of their prioritization schedule.

It was unclear Thursday how the move to vaccinate more senior citizens, who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, will affect Minnesota's ability to administer second-round doses of the vaccine.

Active hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 are improving in Minnesota, health officials said Thursday, and are down to 645, of which 131 are intensive care hospitalizations. Still, 1,589 new cases of COVID-19 were also reported Thursday.

Another 43 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported as well, bringing the state's pandemic death toll to 5,817.

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  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
  • COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.