Minnesota hospitals say state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout at 'untenable crossroads'

In a letter to Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Friday, Minnesota Hospital Association chief executive Rahul Koranne called on health officials to end a vaccine lottery for health care providers and send more doses straight to those providers. 

"My members are increasingly put in the impossible position of telling their patients and their communities that they do not have vaccines for them," Koranne wrote. "We have members who have had no vaccine for three weeks, leaving clinic infrastructure that exists to rapidly get shots in arms idle." 

Health officials and Gov. Tim Walz's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Hospital Association clarified that Koranne referred only to a lottery system determining which health care providers would receive vaccine supplies, and not a separate lottery for seniors that is more widely known to the public.

The lottery system for ages 65 and older has also drawn scrutiny.

Minnesota did not allow new sign-ups for that system this week, but continued to use the existing 220,000-person waiting list to schedule 6,000 appointments at two new mass vaccination sites. The state closed nine other sites after a two-week run.

The state's rollout has been plagued by the nationwide vaccine shortage. This week, Minnesota got roughly 79,000 doses from the federal government, a number expected to climb to 83,825 next week.

State health officials have estimated it will take 16 weeks at the current pace to vaccinate 1.1 million seniors, teachers and child care workers who are currently eligible.

Minnesota had given at least a first dose to 497,843 people as of Wednesday, 11.6 percent of the adult population. The state ranks 23rd in first doses per capita.