This article was written by Marky Wagner
The State of Minnesota began to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination plan in December. The goal for the first, limited doses of the vaccine was to offer it to those at highest risk of getting COVID-19 and those most at risk of severe disease and complications if they get COVID-19. Also included in the original group were people 75 and older. The first groups to get vaccinated also included health care workers and people who live and work in long-term care facilities. These people have been and will continue to be contacted by their employer or facilities where they live when they are able to get vaccinated. This group was designated as the 1a priority group. The state has continued to follow its rollout plan laid out in December, in which members of specific priority groups, primarily health care workers and long-term care residents, are receiving their shots of the two-dose vaccine first.
On February 1, Governor Tim Walz announced the latest of several expansions of its vaccine rollout plan, including an online vaccination finder, expanded vaccine availability and the ability for eligible Minnesotans to get their shots at clinics, community vaccination sites and hospitals around Minnesota. Members of the 1a priority group will also continue to be contacted by their employers or the long-term facility where they live.
People who are 65 and older, educators of students in the pre-K through 12th grade along with childcare providers are now eligible for the vaccines in the group designated 1b. The state is now enlisting local public health providers at 35 locations to vaccinate teachers and child-care staff, who will be contacted directly for appointments with the state program. Local public health departments will reach out to schools and child-care providers.
Sign-ups for the state’s program to vaccinate people 65 and older have evolved from a first-come-first-served appointment process to an online lottery system, moving forward. Preregistration took place in two rounds during the second half of January, in which more than a quarter of a million people signed up. Minnesotans who preregistered for the state community vaccination program are notified by email, text or phone call if they are randomly selected for an appointment at one of the community vaccination clinics in Minneapolis, Duluth and Rochester. If you are chosen, you will then need to sign up for a specific time slot and location for your vaccination.
Educators, school staff and childcare workers will hear from their local public health agency, employer, state-sponsored community vaccination site or state vaccination partner about when and where they can get vaccinated. Health care workers will be notified by their employer when the vaccination is available to them. Health care employers who have not made arrangements for vaccination of their staff, health care personnel who are self-employed, and health care personnel who have not heard from their employer about vaccination can submit their info on the Health Care Vaccination Connection Form. The Minnesota Department of Health will share the information with your local health department. They will reach out to you when there are vaccines and appointments available.
People working in long-term care facilities will be notified by their employer when they can get vaccinated. People living in these facilities will be informed by the staff when vaccination is available to them.
Due to the shortage of vaccines at this point these are the only current groups eligible for the vaccine. More info about who will be included in the next phases of vaccination will be available in the coming weeks. These groups will eventually include people with underlying conditions and additional age groups.
In mid-February the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis each developed new web tools to help people determine whether they are or will become eligible for vaccinations.
The City of Minneapolis site shows which groups are being vaccinated now and which groups are next. It also includes information on which COVID-19 vaccines are available, the safety of receiving the vaccine and what people need to know before, during and after a vaccine appointment.
The State of Minnesota’s site is called the “vaccine connector.” It includes a questionnaire, asking enrollees for their address, age, occupation, medical history and other data that may factor into their eligibility for a vaccine. It also asks for optional information on race, gender and sexual orientation data.
When a Minnesotan, who signs up and registers, becomes eligible to receive a vaccine under state guidelines, the Vaccine Connector will alert them of their eligibility, connect them to resources to schedule an appointment, and notify them if there are vaccination opportunities in their area. This is the first time the state has offered vaccine guidance to the public. This site does not supersede notice from health care providers, who are already reaching out to patients age 65 and older to offer the shots. People who have already registered for the state’s lottery system for 65 and older do not need to sign up again through the new website.
Folks, this info is changing day by day – to find the latest info visit mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/connector/index.jsp or vaccineconnector.mn.gov. Or call Minneapolis 311 or Minnesota’s vaccine hotline at 833-431-2053.