Minnesota’s Covid-19 vaccination program is lagging

Last week, Gov. Walz threw another of his tantrums, this time about the federal government’s handling of the Covid-19 vaccine. The Pioneer Press reported:

Gov. Tim Walz says he’s “not sleeping” over worries Minnesota will fall short of coronavirus vaccine after there was a cascade of confusion Friday about federal distribution plans and whether there would be enough to give people their needed second shots.

“Where did they go? Who’s going to be prosecuted for this?” the Democratic governor said at a Friday news conference in response to questions about a Washington Post story that said the U.S. stockpile of vaccine had evaporated.

It is quite possible that the federal program is a shambles. But that doesn’t explain why the situation is especially bad here in Minnesota.

According to Bloomberg’s Covid-19 vaccine tracker, as Figure 1 shows, Minnesota has, so far, given Covid-19 vaccine doses to fewer people than any of its neighbors except Wisconsin, adjusted for population:

Figure 1: Covid-19 vaccine doses given per 100 people

Source: Bloomberg

And this is not because our state is relatively short of the vaccine. As Figure 2 shows, Minnesota lags all of its neighbors for the share of doses that have been used. The problem is not that were are notably short of the vaccine, but that we have been slow to administer the doses we have.

Figure 2: Percentage of Covid-19 vaccine doses used

Source: Bloomberg

Administration of the vaccine has, of late, become the new lodestar guiding Minnesota’s Covid-19 policy, after hospital capacity then testing then case growth. It is not a bad one given that, federal incompetence notwithstanding, it is a metric which is largely in the hands of the state government to control directly, unlike, say, the rate of case growth.

But this does mean that the state government needs to get cracking. Joe Biden will be inaugurated as President on Wednesday, so Gov. Walz will only have the federal government to blame for another 48 hours. After that he will need to start taking responsibility himself.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.