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Vaccine Distribution and Administration

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Minnesota vaccine distribution infographic
Infographic: Minnesota Vaccine Distribution

There are currently a limited number of vaccine doses available to states from the federal government. Even once doses are promised (allocated) to states, it takes time before they actually arriveand before they can be given to people. 

There is a lot of interest in making the process move faster. It is a complicated process, and there are things that are out of our control. But vaccination is happening. It will just take time.

The Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector has now launched!

This tool is for all Minnesotans who have not yet been vaccinated. Whether you are eligible for a vaccine now or later – the Vaccine Connector will notify you when you it’s your turn for a shot. 

Launch the Vaccine Connector right arrow icon


How does a vaccine get from the federal government, into an arm, and reported back to the State of Minnesota?

  1. Vaccines are allocated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly, on Tuesdays.
    • Right now, federal officials are sending states a very limited supply of vaccine. That is why we have to take a phased approach and give the first doses of vaccine to populations where we can have the greatest impact on health. Those priority populations were identified by the federal government (CDC: COVID-19 ACIP Vaccine Recommendations).
    • The CDC is also responsible for allocating vaccine to certain other federal organizations in Minnesota and across the country, like Veteran's Affairs, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Defense. They also allocate for the six tribal nations sharing geography with Minnesota who have elected to receive doses through Indian Health Services.
    • How quickly we can move through the phases is dependent on vaccine supply provided by the federal government. 

  2. Minnesota works with regional health care coalitions and providers to determine how many doses are needed, and where they should go.
    • The federal government requires each state to wait 48 hours after allocation to order vaccines.
    • During the two day federal waiting period, the state works with providers to determine how much vaccine they should get in the next shipment. The state also gives a portion of its federal allotment to the Pharmacy Partnership Program for use in long term care settings (CDC: Understanding the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program).
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    • As soon as providers let the state know how many doses they need, and confirms they are able to store and administer the doses properly, the state prepares an order for vaccine.

  3. Minnesota places orders for doses on Thursdays and tells the federal government where they need to be sent.

  4. The federal government ships Minnesota’s vaccine order to our hubs and local public health facilities. Shipping takes between 1-5 days.
    • Hubs are large hospitals and local public health facilities all around the state that can store vaccine at ultra-cold temperatures. For the Pfizer vaccine, this is especially important.

  5. Hubs reallocate vaccine doses to 118 smaller hospitals and clinics around the state.
    • Even after the doses have arrived at a hub, they may not be at their final destination. The hubs redistribute many of the doses they receive to smaller health care settings in their region, and this takes time. Doses that are ordered on Thursdays may not arrive at their final destination until the following Friday.

  6. Hubs ship doses to smaller health care settings and begin administering their own doses of vaccine.
    • They must stagger vaccinations in order to minimize staffing issues due to possible side effects, such as fever, headache, or tiredness. Workers voluntarily choose whether to get vaccinated.

  7. Smaller clinics and hospitals begin administering vaccine.
    • Once doses arrive at their final destination, providers are taking deliberate steps to set up vaccination clinics quickly and safely. They have to make sure they get it right.
    • The people giving the shots need to be trained, and the people getting the shots might need some education before they choose to go ahead with getting vaccinated. This takes time.
    • The Pfizer vaccine needs to be used within 6 hours once the doses have been thawed and prepared. This means that sites need to carefully plan how many doses they will prepare at one time. They must make sure they have the right number of people to give them to, so doses are not wasted.
    • Hospitals are also stretched very thin right now. They have to administer the vaccine to their entire staff while continuing to care for patients.

  8. Providers giving vaccines report their dose numbers to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
    • Providers must report this information to the state within 24 hours of administering vaccine. Pharmacies have 72 hours to report their vaccine numbers. As a result, there is a delay in getting the data after a shot has actually been given.

  9. MDH verifies, processes, and packages data on vaccine doses administered for reporting.
    • MDH needs time to make sure the data is verified and fully processed before reporting it to the public.

  10. Vaccine administration data is reported.
    • Vaccines are going into arms! Vaccine administration data is updated daily.

These are new vaccines and this is a new process. We are getting faster and more efficient as we move forward, but it’s important to be deliberate and do this right so that vaccine is not wasted or mishandled. As more doses become available and we are able to vaccinate more people each day, things will go faster. We will provide updates when we are able to move to a new phase.

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