Minnesota's COVID-19 vaccine appointment site has gone live as of noon Tuesday, with the portal available to those aged 65 and older to book slots for their shots.
Appointments were made available at nine vaccination sites across the state, which between them have approximately 12,000 vaccine doses available right now.
Seniors looking to make appointments have been warned to expect delays when they try to book online, or via the phone, given the huge demand expected for the vaccines, and the low supply available.
On Monday, Gov. Tim Walz said this was "going to be harder than going to Ticketmaster and getting Bruce Springsteen tickets."
Early on, many of those attempting to set up appointments online are in online "waiting rooms," while efforts to get through via the phone numbers are proving similarly frustrating.
Vaccination sites have been set up in Anoka, Brooklyn Center, Fergus Falls, Marshall, Mountain Iron, North Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud and Thief River Falls, and new appointments for these sites will be added every Tuesday at noon.
As well as earmarking some for the over-65s, a limited number of vaccines have also been made available to school districts across the state, as Minnesota expands its eligibility for the COVID vaccine.
While vaccine manufacturing is expected to ramp up under the incoming Biden Administration, for now Minnesota is expecting to receive just 60,000 doses of the vaccine per week from the federal government. However, Walz said setting up the vaccination centers now will put Minnesota in a good position when the number of vaccines arriving in the state increases.
So far, a little over 200,000 Minnesotans have had at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, with the state still pursuing its efforts to get the highest priority recipients – an estimated 500,000 healthcare workers and long-term care residents/staff – vaccinated.
Kris Ehresmann, the MDH infectious disease director, said Minnesota is on track to at least have offered the vaccine to all 500,000 of these people, though there have been some issues getting all of them to take it, with the Star Tribune recently reporting that between 30-60% of nursing facility staff are choosing not to get vaccinated right now.
With these challenges apparent, MDH decided to expand the criteria for who could get the vaccine, following updated advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control.