ST. PAUL, MN – House DFL lawmakers today introduced new legislation to increase opportunities for equitable COVID-19 vaccine access. In response to the vast disparities outlined in reporting from the Minnesota Department of Health, Representative Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven), Representative Jay Xiong (DFL-St. Paul), Representative Hodan Hassan (DFL-Minneapolis), Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), and 31 other House DFLers are leading efforts to close the gap and get more vaccine doses distributed to marginalized communities across the state.
“By doubling down on our efforts now to get shots into as many arms as possible, in every corner of the state, we can crush the virus and close the chapter on this public health crisis,” said Rep. Morrison, a practicing physician and Assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House. “The Minnesota Department of Health has been doing an incredible job handling the pandemic response, but we can and should do more for our communities who have been especially hit hard over the last year.”
The legislation would establish a Mobile Vaccine Program, in which mobile vaccination vehicles are deployed to disproportionately impacted communities around the state to provide COVID-19 vaccines to those residents. A mobile vaccination vehicle providing vaccines in a community with a large number of residents with limited English proficiency must also be staffed by interpreters for the needed languages.
“As a proud first-generation Hmong American born to refugee parents, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges our immigrant communities face when they can’t access basic public services,” said Rep. Xiong. “Everyone in Minnesota deserves the chance to beat this pandemic quickly- no matter where you live, what you look like, or where you’re from.”
“COVID-19 has exacerbated our inequities, especially in healthcare,” said Rep. Hassan. “For a state that has a history of terrible outcomes for equity, we must be intentional in our approaches to distribute vaccines to BIPOC communities.”
Additionally, under the proposal, the Minnesota Department of Health would appoint a new Director of COVID-19 Vaccination Equity and Outreach. In this role, the director would partner with local care providers, pharmacies, and community health centers to plan and implement actions and programs to overcome disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates. An education and mass media outreach campaign plan are also included. Weekly data and monthly reporting of progress is also required.
“Every Minnesotan deserves equitable access to vaccines, regardless of where you live and what you look like, and regardless of whether we are in a global pandemic,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “This is a forward-looking bill that will help distribution in the short-term to communities that face unique barriers. Minnesota has the resources to make sure no one gets left behind in this pandemic, now we need to put those resources to work.”
The bill has been referred to the Health Finance and Policy Committee.