Monday's Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine pilot program announcement for Minnesotans aged 65 and older brought out questions and concerns for many on social media.
Technology challenges for some in that age group to pre-register.
Transportation challenges, if selected to receive the vaccine.
A week after the state's call center and website were bombarded with seniors wanting shots, Gov. Tim Walz and MDH are pivoting to a lottery system for the weekly 6,000 vaccinations.
The first week saw an uptick in available doses with 9,425.
"This is about having the infrastructure in place to be ready when the federal government finally begins to send us more vaccine," Walz said in a statement announcing the changes. "Every shot in the arm is another step toward crushing COVID and ending this pandemic."
The pre-registration process was open from 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26 to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27. A random selection process will determine appointments at community pilot vaccination sites across the state.
The state announced that 226,244 Minnesota seniors registered for the COVID19 vaccine lottery this week.
Those that pre-registered will only have to do so once. Those not selected in the first week will automatically be carried over week after week.
For many in the 65-plus age group, logging into the state's website could be tricky. Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes recommends people who aren’t tech savvy or live in bad Wi-Fi areas to have a friend or family member try to make an appointment for them.
Pre-registration can also be done over the phone at 833-431-2053.
There is no cost to participate, and you do not need proof of insurance or to provide your insurance information. Having identification ready on-site is helpful.
The state will begin notifying selected recipients starting Wednesday, Jan. 27, by text, email, or phone, with instructions on how to make appointments for both your first and second doses of vaccine.
Those that prefer a phone call must be certain to answer your phone. The reservationist will only try twice.
No walk-ins will be accepted. Minnesotans with appointments should arrive no more than 15 minutes before their scheduled time.
The pre-registration process requires a location around the state to be selected. They include: Blaine, National Sports Center; Brooklyn Center, Earle Brown Center; Fergus Falls, Roosevelt Education Center; Marshall, Marshall Middle School; Mt. Iron-Buhl High School; North Mankato, Dakota Meadows Middle School; Rochester, Willow Creek Middle School; St. Cloud Civic Center; Thief River Falls, Franklin Middle School.
The pilot sites were selected to allow health officials to work out any kinks or address operational issues before scaling the program up. The rollout is similar to how community testing sites were opened in Duluth, Winona and Moorhead before sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul were opened.
Additionally, some of the vaccinations are also being sent to Federally Qualified Health Centers — some of which are located in Minneapolis and St. Paul — to administer vaccine to their existing 65-plus patients.
John Brownlee of Victoria, CEO and co-founder of Vidscrip, an app used worldwide to facilitate communication between doctors and patients through video, said like many, he's navigating the vaccination process for his parents in Oregon.
"MDH doesn't have the resources to do it all. We all have our part to play, right?" Brownlee said on Twitter. "It will take all of us working together — especially those with platforms — to make this happen. If we sit back and throw darts at MDH, rather than help people out, more people will die."
Sarah Prescher, a public health nurse for Carver County, said challenges of technology and transportation are very much part of the discussion. Walk-in and mass vaccinations aren't ideal for the 65-plus group either, she said.
"Primary care will also be a key factor in getting seniors immunized. (We) need more vaccines to open all channels," she said on Twitter.
If you prefer to get your vaccine at your regular health care provider, you do not need to contact them at this time. They will soon be reaching out to all eligible Minnesotans to schedule appointments for vaccination.