Vaccine Connector tool helps Minnesotans know when, where to get COVID-19 vaccine
There's a new online tool to help Minnesotans determine when and where to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Gov. Tim Walz announced the launch of the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector on Thursday. Users are asked to provide contact information, demographic data, and some medical and employment information to determine when they'll be eligible for vaccination based on state guidelines.
"This connector is open and it will remain open 24/7," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said during a news conference Thursday morning.
Minnesotans who have not yet been vaccinated can register for the program at mn.gov/vaccineconnector or call 833-431-2053 for translation assistance or help signing up.
"This tool is a really big step toward connecting all Minnesotans with the vaccine, which, as we keep emphasizing, still remains extraordinarily limited," Malcolm said.
Although the site asks for more data, only contact information and a date of birth are required to register for the program, Minnesota IT Services Commissioner Tarek Tomes said during the press conference. Other data provided will be used to speed up the process.
The tool also includes questions about gender identity, sexual orientation, race, cultural identification and disabilities to help the state track and measure equity and fairness of the vaccine distribution. Individuals can opt out of those questions and still be registered.
When a person becomes eligible to get vaccinated, the tool will alert them, connect them to resources to schedule an appointment and notify them if there are vaccination opportunities in their area. Minnesotans will still be able to make appointments directly through a registered vaccinator.
Due to the short time the vaccines can be used after they are thawed, vaccinators have often had to find recipients for extra doses at the end of each day rather than let doses go to waste.
People who indicate they are available on short notice when registering for the vaccine connector could be called to receive one of these doses, sometimes within an hour after they are contacted, Malcolm said.
As of 10:15 a.m. Thursday, more than 50,000 Minnesotans had registered for the program, Tomes said.
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Those who have registered for the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot Program or Community Vaccination Program are already registered for the vaccine connector program, Tomes said during the news conference.
In a statement, Walz said: “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."
The state health department is hearing "quite encouraging" news from the federal government regarding a large amount of COVID-19 vaccines that could be "deployed by the end of July," Malcolm said.
Minnesota is currently vaccinating health care workers, long-term care residents, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 educators, childcare workers and people age 65 and over.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.