• 34°

Minnesota seniors get 24 hours to sign up for vaccine lottery

By Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune

Minnesota is trying a new approach to scheduling senior citizens for limited COVID-19 vaccinations this week — giving them a 24-hour window to sign up for a lottery rather than a madcap free-for-all.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday announced that people 65 and older will have a full day, starting at 5 a.m. Tuesday, to preregister for vaccinations at one of nine test sites throughout the state. Those randomly selected will be notified Wednesday of their appointments later this week.

The lottery system replaces the first-come, first-serve approach last Tuesday that crashed a state registration website and left many senior citizens and their family members confused and staring at their computers for hours.

While last week’s approach did ultimately connect thousands of seniors to vaccine appointments, Walz’s announcement said the new approach “allows for more equitable and orderly access.”

The nine sites last week gave 13,369 first doses of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccines — split roughly between senior citizens who signed up online and teachers and child-care providers who signed up separately through their school districts or businesses.

“We’re going to get the vaccine we do have into arms quickly in Minnesota — whether that’s a few thousand doses or many more,” Walz said in a statement.

Teachers will continue to sign up separately for vaccine doses that are allotted in small quantities to individual districts. The mass vaccination of teachers is being moved from the nine pilot sites to Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday through Monday. Teachers who received first doses last week will go back to their original clinic sites, though.

The state allocated 15,000 Moderna vaccine doses this week for the mass vaccination of educators. The governor’s announcement indicated 8,000 doses would be available to seniors this week at the nine test sites, compared to roughly 6,000 last week.

The latest state data through Jan. 22 indicates that 266,985 first doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have been administered in Minnesota, and that 67,436 second doses have been administered. More than 4.8% of Minnesota’s eligible population of people 16 and older has now received at least one dose of vaccine.

The priority remains vaccinating roughly 500,000 health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities. State leaders report that doses have at least been offered in all nursing homes and that vaccination clinics have now moved to assisted-living facilities as well.

Urgency to expand vaccine access in Minnesota comes even amid continued declines in the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Monday reported three COVID-19 deaths and 794 newly diagnosed infections with the coronavirus that causes the disease — bringing overall totals to 6,098 deaths and 455,783 infections.

The positivity rate of diagnostic testing for COVID-19 has fallen to 5.1%, indicating less viral transmission across the state.