If you’re 16 or older, you’re finally eligible to receive a vaccine in Minnesota, starting March 30. For some people, that news has arrived months earlier than expected.
So: Now what?
The process of finding a vaccine can be confusing. There are a lot of options. There are two-shot vaccines — from Pfizer and Moderna — and a one-shot vaccine — from Johnson & Johnson. And if you’re new to the process, now that your eligibility is changing, this all might be wholly overwhelming.
Here’s what you need to know about the many ways to sign up for vaccination in Minnesota — and what to consider as you do.
First: Be patient.
Just because a person is eligible doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get a shot immediately. While the state’s weekly vaccine supply is growing, demand for is expected to continue to outpace that supply for at least the next few weeks.
And if you’re under 18 or helping someone who’s under 18 to sign up for vaccination: Keep in mind that, so far, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. Make sure that, as you look for vaccine appointments, you’re signing up for the Pfizer doses.
Next: Understand the sources.
It’s important to know that the streams of vaccine coming into Minnesota are distributed in several different ways. And the providers administering the doses might have their own sets of priorities for who their doses are meant to reach.
For instance: A health care provider might prioritize older patients or those with specific health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Or: A public health department or hospital system might host a vaccination clinic for people who live within a certain neighborhood or region, as a way of connecting people with vaccine who might not otherwise be able to easily access it.
State and federal governments are also still prioritizing folks who are at the greatest risk of COVID-19, including specific underserved communities.
Big-picture, much of the vaccine coming through state health department channels is distributed among the state’s large health care providers. But some vaccine supply is also distributed by tribal, county and local public health departments; by smaller providers and through community collaborations or directly by the state health department at community clinics.
Vaccine supply is also getting to Minnesota through some federal avenues, as well — including Indian Health Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Federally Qualified Health Centers.
Finally: Look in multiple places.
For the best shot at getting a vaccine appointment, your best bet is to check for availability through multiple avenues.
And if you’re lucky enough to get more than one appointment — sometimes it happens! — be sure to cancel any you don’t intend keep, so others can take your place. Here’s a guide to thinking through the ethics of where, when and how you get your vaccine.
State health leaders and Gov. Tim Walz are urging all Minnesotans to sign up for alerts through the state’s vaccine connector tool — which is being used to connect people with vaccine appointments at the state’s community clinics, as they become available.
But it’s also helpful to check other avenues — such as health care providers, pharmacies and others — in the meantime. Some unofficial Facebook groups and vaccine search engines have also cropped up, as more people try to make appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Scroll down to learn more about the options that apply to you.
Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector
A good place to begin is with Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector tool.
Fill out a brief questionnaire, and you’ll get contacted when an appointment is available at a state-run vaccine clinic near you. As of late March, the state is hosting temporary clinics as needed, and running seven permanent clinics in cities around Minnesota:
Each of these clinics require an appointment for a vaccine, and none of them allow walk-ins.
If a spot opens up at a clinic near you, you’ll get an email, text or phone message. The state has an explainer with details about where that communication will be coming from, and what to look out for.
And if you have questions about the state-run clinics — or if you’re having trouble filling out the Vaccine Connector form or would prefer to register over the phone — you can call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-431-2053 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
But don’t stop there. There are now many options for vaccine appointments around the state. The state Health Department has produced a map and search tool to help you find vaccine locations close to where you live.
Health care providers
If you’re a patient at one of the large health care or hospital systems around the state, chances are good that you’ll be contacted by your provider when they have a vaccine available for you. After being contacted, you’ll have the opportunity to sign up for a specific time slot and location to be vaccinated.
Many providers are continuing to prioritize vaccinating their patients according to risk factors like age and health conditions that make some more vulnerable to COVID-19.
While you wait, it’s a good idea to make sure that your health account is up to date with your existing providers, especially if you haven’t received care recently.
And some systems will allow you to sign up for a new account — and for a vaccine appointment — even if you have not been a patient with them before.
Many providers are asking their patients for patience. Even though the state anticipates receiving more vaccine from the federal government in the coming weeks, demand will continue to outpace supply. M Health Fairview, for example, said in late March that its vaccine appointments are booked three weeks out.
Here are some links for vaccine information from some of the state’s largest providers:
Mayo Clinic: You must have been a Mayo patient in the past two years. If you are not a Mayo patient but you live in one of 20 southern Minnesota counties, you can sign up here for a text alert when you become eligible for an open Mayo vaccination appointment.
Health Partners: You must have been a Health Partners patient in the past, and you must have an online account. If you are a primary caregiver to a person with complex medical needs, or if you live in a multi-generational household, you can update your online account to attest to that fact, and will become part of Health Partners’ priority group.
M Health Fairview: You don’t need to be a patient to sign up. Twin Cities-area appointment openings are released on Tuesdays around 8 a.m.
Allina: Patients will be notified when they’re selected to make an appointment.
Essentia Health: You do not need to be a patient to sign up for an appointment. Essentia patients can schedule their vaccine appointment through Essentia’s online patient portal. If you are not an Essentia patient, you can sign up here. You may also call (833) 494-0836 to schedule one.
Sanford Health: Sanford patients will be contacted when a dose is available. Sanford recommends that anyone who’s interested in a vaccine fill out a vaccine registration form.
St. Luke’s: Current St. Luke’s patients can make a vaccination appointment through its online patient portal. If you’re not a St. Luke’s patient, you can still request an appointment, but need to do so over the phone or via email. Details here.
CentraCare: Patients will be contacted when appointments are available to them. To schedule an appointment — or to find out if you’re eligible under CentraCare’s priority groups — sign up here.
Hennepin Healthcare: Patients are being contacted directly when appointments are available to them.
Many pharmacies around the state are receiving vaccine shipments directly from the federal government, rather than the state. Because of that, they may have available vaccine supply when health care providers do not.
Most major pharmacy chains in Minnesota require you to make an appointment on their websites. For some, you can sign up to receive emails when appointments open up. Others offer waiting lists, for people to be called with little notice:
The federal Centers for Disease Control has also set up a website to find pharmacy appointments near you.
The state Health Department has established seven community vaccine clinics. As of the end of March, those clinics are located in Bloomington, Duluth, Mankato, Minneapolis, Rochester, St. Cloud and St. Paul.
The state has also established — and will continue to announce — temporary clinics in other locations, as the need arises.
To sign up for the chance to be randomly chosen to make an appointment at one of the state-run community clinics, visit the state’s Vaccine Connector website.
Be sure to keep an eye on your email spam folder, so you don’t miss a note. And you may not want to ignore incoming phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize for the next few weeks. Phone calls alerting you to an available vaccine appointment will arrive from 954-716-7771.
Local public health departments
The state is also distributing vaccine doses to local public health departments, although they typically don’t receive as much vaccine as health care providers and pharmacies.
Most county health departments will continue to prioritize vaccinating people in previously high-risk groups: For instance, people with underlying health conditions and certain groups of essential workers. They are also working to connect hard-to-reach members of their local communities with the COVID-19 vaccine.
And because each local public health department is distributing vaccine each week according to the specific needs of the area, it’s best to check with your local department to see if they’re making appointments for the general public.
Find a full list of Minnesota’s local public health departments here.
Some local health departments allow residents to register for a vaccine appointment, or vaccine-related alerts, on their websites. Here are a few examples — though this is by no means an exhaustive list!
Veterans Affairs health care system
All enrolled veterans are eligible to be vaccinated through the VA, but you must be enrolled in the VA’s health care system to make an appointment.
Call the Minneapolis VA at 612-467-1301, or the St. Cloud VA at 320-252-1670 to schedule an appointment.
Several VA community clinics have been scheduled for the next couple months, in the northwest Twin Cities metro area, Albert Lea, Duluth-Superior, Mankato, Rice Lake and Rochester.
The Minneapolis VA is also holding a walk-in vaccine clinic for any enrolled Veteran on March 31 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. No appointment is necessary, but there is a limited supply and the clinic will end when doses run out.
If you’re a veteran, spouse or caregiver and want to keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccine developments at the VA, you can sign up for updates.
Federally qualified health care clinics
The federal government is sending vaccine doses directly to health care clinics that serve underserved and hard-to-reach populations, primarily in urban centers and rural areas.
Examples of federally qualified health care clinics include Lake Superior Community Health Center in Duluth, Open Door Health Center in Mankato, People’s Center Clinics & Services in Minneapolis, and Minnesota Community Care in St. Paul.
These clinics are reaching out directly to patients when they have vaccine available. But if you are a patient of one of these clinics, call or check their website to see if appointments are open.
Tribal health departments
Tribal health departments around the state are offering the COVID-19 vaccine to members — and some are also vaccinating people who aren’t tribal citizens, but live in surrounding communities. Here is a snapshot of the many vaccination opportunities across the 11 Native nations in Minnesota.
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is vaccinating all Indian Health Service patients 18 and older. Elders 55 and older, as well as others who have underlying health conditions, are being prioritized. Eligible patients can call the band’s 24/7 COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 218-368-4763.
The band has also expanded its vaccine eligibility to anyone who lives in several cities and towns in the surrounding community, regardles of whether they’re a band member. Those locations include: Bemidji, Bena, Blackduck, Boy River, Cass Lake, Deer River, Federal Dam, Inger, Kelliher, LaPorte, Longville, Remer, Tenstrike and Walker.
Appointments and proof of residence are required.
The White Earth Nation continues to host vaccine clinics at locations across the White Earth Reservation for anyone 18 or older who lives, works or owns property on the reservation, as well as tribal members and members of their households.
White Earth is also holding clinics in the Twin Cities metro area for tribal members and members of their household.
Appointments are required. Check the White Earth Facebook page for upcoming clinic details.
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is holding regular vaccine clinics for people who are over the age of 18 and are Mille Lacs Band members, live in a Mille Lacs Band member home or are an essential employee of the Mille Lacs Band.
Registration is required. Check the Mille Lacs Band’s Facebook page for details.
Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.
The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.
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How to find a COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota – Minnesota Public Radio News