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Gov. Walz updates vaccine rollout progress, addresses concerns with equitable distribution

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Governor Tim Walz and Alfred Babington-Johnson at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KTTC) -- Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said the White House hopes 20 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses will go out nationwide by the end of next month.

Even so, there are still many vaccine concerns. Is everyone eligible given a chance to get it? How long will it be until things return to normal?

Walz addressed several concerns while visiting Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis. Another concern is getting the vaccine out fairly to minority communities. Some are still hesitant to even sign up.

"People were asking the question: Why are they asking about race? Why are they asking about this," Walz said. He also said the information isn't being shared outside the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota state leaders hope to break down barriers keeping minority communities from the vaccine.

"We have more work to do, but these are the folks that know where it's at," Walz said referring to community leaders Tuesday. "They meet people where they are at."

It's more than just a lack of access among communities of color.

"There's mistrust and skepticism. As we shared that with the governor and commissioner Malcolm. They listened to us. We know they've listened because we've seen some results," said Alfred Babington-Johnson, CEO of Stairstep Foundation.

Latino communities are struggling to get the vaccine, even when forms are translated.

"When kids are helping them, something is lost in translation. We've been going through several misunderstandings of the things that are published," said Rodolfo Gutierrez, HACER executive director.

One concern for all communities is the rumor about wasted vaccine doses. The governor assured everyone the state is doing its best to make sure this does not happen.

"We're calling people at 1 a.m. in Thief River Falls when there's the last dose. They let me know. We will not waste vaccine. You're right. It's so precious." Walz said.

Some of the concern is about reports of leftover vaccine in vials that don't add up to a full dose getting thrown away.

"But this one is very clear," said Walz addressing that. "This is the law and there's reasons for doing it."

As we look to the future, many wonder about the possibility of summer entertainment, including the state fair.

"I've said I want to be there to eat that corndog," Walz said. Yes, there are corndogs."

Walz added, more will be known in the next couple weeks as far as when the next priority groups can expect to receive vaccine.

Yet he is not ready to make any decisions about lifting restrictions or predicting when things might be going back to normal.

"I'm worried that if we don't get the timing just right, we get that bounce back," Walz said.

Despite his concerns, Walz says he is optimistic Minnesotans will be able to enjoy concerts and Twins baseball games in person this summer. He urges everyone to follow health guidelines in order for this to happen.

Alex Tejada

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