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State launches ‘vaccine connector’ to tell Minnesotans when they’re eligible for COVID shots

By Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota is launching a new “vaccine connector” website to help line people up with COVID-19 shots.

The site 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 race, gender and sexual orientation data, but says that is optional.

The site isn’t a one-stop for vaccinations.

“When a Minnesotan 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,” says an announcement from the office of Gov. Tim Walz. “Minnesotans will still make appointments directly through a registered vaccinator.”

This appears to be the first time the state has offered vaccine guidance to the general public — to people younger than 65, and not in public-facing occupations like health and child care and education. The announcement says anyone else who hasn’t yet had a shot and wants one can enroll.

The application process does not provide any estimate about when a vaccine might become available or any preferences for location — although it does ask if enrollees would be willing to respond to a vaccine availability on very short notice.

The new 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 signed up for the state’s lottery system for people 65 and older do not need to sign up again through the new website.

Additionally, the federal government has already launched a vaccination initiative for long-term care residents. The state has health care provider and educator vaccination initiatives underway, as well.

“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,” Walz said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “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 system also has a toll-free phone number for people who can’t sign up online at 833-431-2053.