I have been scrambling for the past few weeks to find a way to get vaccinated. The options for people over 65 in Minnesota are multiplying now, but demand still far outstrips supply. The hunt is frustrating. There is no system.
I just succeeded today in signing up both my wife and me for appointments, later in the spring. They are close by and they are both on the same day.
I came across the site where I finally managed to sign up on a local Facebook group, Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters, started by local mom Maura Caldwell (that’s her at left, from the KARE11 broadcast). It now has over 6,000 members and the rate of posting — tips and success stories and pleas for help locating vaccine — is prodigious. The group was featured on KARE11 Sunday night. Over the course of today I read dozens of stories from those who had scored an appointment for themselves, their parents, or endangered others; and I shared my own.
You will be able to read the current state of the Facebook group without a login, but to participate you will need not only to log in to Facebook but also to request admission from the administrators.Among the many treasures posted to the group today was this list, created by Natasha Kettleson, of resources, facts, and links for those seeking access to vaccine. (That Facebook link is open to the public for reading, but see the caveat above.)
Here are some of the best options for Minnesotans over 65 years of age in search of a shot or two. (Health care workers and those in congregate housing were prioritized in an earlier phase; first responders, teachers, and child care workers have other avenues to get vaccinated.)
- Your own clinic — Most health systems in the state are vaccinating only those over 75 (plus health care workers); one, Health Partners, has reached down to age 65. Your best tool for learning about availability from your own provider is your up-to-date MyChart portal login. Most providers are asking that you not call them about vaccines.
- People’s Clinic — This local institution (425 20th Ave S, Minneapolis, 612-355-5556) is where we managed to find our appointments. The wait on hold was only 20 minutes, and the woman who took care of our arrangements was totally lovely. We also got on a standby list to be called in case of cancellations.
- Thrifty White — this pharmacy chain has the best website of the lot. It updates in real time. You don’t need a pre-existing account with Thrifty White to participate. Many members of the Minneapolis Vaccine Hunters Facebook group said they had succeeded in getting an appointment today simply by keeping a Thrifty White browser tab open and refreshing it incessantly. (I have been doing that all day, with no success.) Rumor has it that a large number of appointments may be added late Monday or early Tuesday. Too late I saw a poster to Facebook claiming around 4:00 pm that 80 slots had opened up in Waseca, MN — by the time I saw the post, 10 minutes later, all had been claimed.
- Walmart — For both Walmart and Walgreens (below) it pays to have set up a login account in advance. People say they have gotten appointments here. I saw none available across 8 local stores at various times of the day. I also tried searching well outside the Metro; no joy. An unconfirmed rumor says that the supply of appointments may refresh around midnight.
I’ll let you know.[ Note added 2021-02-16: ] Walmart did indeed open up Monday Feb. 22 at midnight. A number of people posted on the Facebook group about having set their computer or phone’s clock ahead to register midnight ahead of that time; they were able to see and secure slots at many area Walmarts. I was able to do so as well, at two different stores. I will be canceling the People’s Clinic slots.
- Walgreens — Local pharmacies in this chain may have a supply of vaccine, but this website has been frustrating untold thousands of Minnesotans for days now. It teases with vaccine availability at perhaps several or many stores near the requestor; only after going through a long process are you told that no second dose is available, therefore the first cannot be scheduled. Walgreens offers an option of scheduling only a second dose, for those who have already had one (but no option for requesting only a first dose). A number of people have gamed this option to set up two “second” shots, a month apart.
- The MN “lottery” — this is the program that kicked off on January 19 as a free-for-all for over-65s to sign up for too few available doses. By the following week it had morphed into a signup for a drawing, and then further signups were halted. After those first two weeks the names in the hat numbered 226,000, from which 8,000 to 11,000 lucky winners have been drawn each succeeding Tuesday. Now the tally of remaining names must be below 200,000. The number of doses per week allocated to this program has not increased, to my knowledge. Still, the odds get better each week that the drawing proceeds.
The state’s interactive map of vaccination locations providing shots to the over-65 cohort seems like a good idea, until you visit and find that none of the buttons work (in Safari or Chrome); and that the sites on the map are as likely as not to have no supply of vaccine. My own provider, M Health / HealthEast, is listed on the MN map as offering signups for shots. Turns out, they are only vaccinating those 75 and older, which I knew from the MyChart portal and from several phone calls. The M Health representative I spoke to at my PCP’s home base said that they had long ago informed the state health department that no vaccine was available for those younger than 75; but the erroneous listing persists. I am certain is is not the only one on that site.