Senator Karin Housley Pushes for Answers from MDH: “Stop pretending we’re prioritizing our Seniors when the data shows the opposite”

Today, Senator Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, held a hearing to discuss the misallocation of vaccines, with seniors receiving on 39% of all vaccine doses available in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health was invited to attend and provide answers regarding the constantly changing information about vaccine distribution to our seniors.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that only 5.4% of seniors 65 and older have received the complete series of two doses. On January 14, it was reported that 89% of COVID deaths were occurring in the 65 and older population. As of February 11, the data shows no improvement. As daily infections trend downward, the death rate for our most vulnerable population has remained high, showing a clear lack of prioritization for our most vulnerable population. 

“Minnesotans aged 65 and older continue to make up the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths and it’s nothing short of a tragedy,” said Senator Housley. “In the last few weeks alone, there have been 436 deaths of seniors 65 and older, with over a quarter of these deaths being seniors living in the community. Yet as of February 14, only 5.4% of the Minnesota senior population aged 65 and older have received both doses of the vaccines. It’s a matter of life and death. I have repeatedly asked MDH and Governor Walz to answer for this lack of transparency, only to receive no concrete answers.”

The State Vaccine Advisory Group last met on January 11 to discuss prioritization of the phase 1(b) group, and who will be included in that round of vaccinations. Included in their discussion was the possibility of including other groups of younger workers and prison inmates in phase 1bw. Every Friday, MDH also holds a closed zoom call with legislators where Commissioner Jan Malcolm and other members of MDH leadership provide an update on vaccines and allow members to ask questions. These meetings are not accessible to the public as they happen. MDH only has a Vaccine Data dashboard that members of the public are pointed to if they have any questions. The concern is that decisions are being made without transparency, and vulnerable seniors are not receiving proper guidance and direction.

“This hearing focused on core questions our seniors are still lacking clear and transparent answers on from the Walz administration,” continued Senator Housley. “The constant changes to vaccine distribution strategies without a primary focus on getting the most vulnerable among us the information they need to protect themselves is a strategy for failure. As we continue to get more vaccines from the federal government, MDH needs to fully commit to a plan for finishing vaccination of seniors and not adding more eligible participants until seniors are fully protected with both doses.”

Senator Housley has previously proposed a Seniors 1st Vaccine Plan as an alternative.