by CHRIS ROGERS
State officials launched a new system this morning to alert Minnesotans when COVID vaccines are available. Called the Vaccine Connector, it’s an online and phone-based system that allows Minnesotans to receive notifications when they are eligible and when local vaccinations sites have available shots, according to Gov. Tim Walz’s office.
For the most part, the Vaccine Connector won’t actually sign participants up for a vaccination appointment, but it will alert them to the opportunity to sign up for an appointment with pharmacies, county health departments, and health clinics, according to a press release from Walz’s office. The online registration is at vaccineconnector.mn.gov and Minnesotans without internet access may sign up by phone by calling 833-431-2053.
Pharmacies, county health departments, and clinics are all running their own signup systems for vaccination appointments. A rundown of how to sign up for local sites is available here, and a state listing of all vaccination sites is available at mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/find-vaccine/locations/index.jsp. Winona Health and Gundersen Health System said they will notify their patients when vaccines are available.
State officials also reopened the registration for a lottery for Minnesotans 65 and older to receive COVID shots at state-run facilities — the nearest one is in Rochester. The waiting list for those sites had been closed for weeks, but by using the Vaccine Connector, 65-plus Minnesotans will now be automatically registered, according to Walz’s office.
People currently eligible to receive vaccines include health care workers of all kinds, long-term care residents and other congregate living residents, K-12 educators and child care workers, and adults 65 and older.
Vaccination appointments for health care personnel, educators, and child care staff are being routed through their employers. For Winona County employers and self-employed people in those fields, registration forms are available from Winona County Public Health at www.co.winona.mn.us/page/3841.
For the general public 65 and up, there’s a variety of different organizations offering vaccines, each with different signup systems, and all of them with very few doses to go around. Health officials said it will likely take months to vaccinate all Minnesota seniors, and in the meantime, trying to get a shot may involve hunting for open slots.
“We still have a frustratingly limited vaccine supply from the federal government, but every Minnesotan should know their chance to get a vaccine will come. Today, we are connecting them directly to that process,” Walz stated in the press release, touting the new Vaccine Connector. “We need to make it as easy as possible for every Minnesotan to get the vaccine when it’s their turn – no matter where they live and no matter their personal circumstances. The options we’re providing will help make that happen.”
The Vaccine Connector registration asks participants for demographic data, including their age, gender, race, employment, health history, and contact information in order to help determine their eligibility. Essential workers and people with health conditions that put them at extra risk of serious illness from COVID are expected to be next in line for vaccinations.